The Burden of Proof that Hydraulic Fracturing Pollutes Water Supplies is with Those Who Oppose Drilling

Those who oppose drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale most often use the argument that harmful chemicals are pumped into the ground and therefore will find their way into surface water supplies. In meeting after meeting concerns about water are voiced most often. Those of us who support safe drilling have to patiently, methodically point out that of all the tens of thousands of gas wells that have been drilled in this country using hydraulic fracturing, there are no reported cases of chemicals finding their way from the well into ground water supplies. (Please! If you know of such a case, post the details in the comments.)

Hydraulic fracturing and the small amount of chemicals used in it do not pollute water supplies. Less than one percent of fracking fluid is chemicals. More than 99 percent is water and sand. These are the facts.

At a recent meeting in Frazer, Pennsylvania (near Pittsburgh), residents met and questioned representatives from Range Resources, a driller planning a new well in the area. Here’s part of an exchange on the subject of water:

Residents such as Jim Russell, who lives along Yutes Run Road and has well water, worry the chemicals used in fracking could poison the water supply.

“What chemicals do you use and why does that have to be?” Russell asked.

Chuck Moyer, geology manager with Range Resources, responded that chemicals make up less than 1 percent of the solution. He said that, in general terms, the solution contains a “soapy” material and a bactericide similar to what homeowners put on their lawns.

Jim Cannon, a spokesman for Range Resources, said the chemicals do a good job of fracturing the shale.

“We take great pains to protect the water table,” he said.

The officials said the water table in the township is about 300 feet underground. When crews dig a well, they surround it with a casing made of steel and concrete. That casing is thickest near the water table.*

Pennsylvania requires drillers to test wells located within 1,000 feet of a well. Range voluntarily tests out to 2,500 feet.

The point? The burden of proof is not on the drilling industry to somehow “prove” drilling will not pollute water supplies. That proof already exists in the form of thousands of successfully drilled gas wells where there has been no contamination. The burden is on those who say drilling is unsafe for water supplies. Show the proof, and make your case. And if you can’t, allow drilling to go forward.

*Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (July 7) – Water tops Frazer fears about gas drilling