Surprise delay in major fracking study
Cape Town - A major US study on the possible impacts of fracking on drinking water resources is under way, but has been unexpectedly delayed by two years.
Because of the massive, and growing, extent of fracking operations in the US, the statutory Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was asked to investigate by the US Congress.
The study started in November 2011, and the agency sprung a surprise last month when it announced that its draft final report, initially due for release in 2014 for public comment and peer review, would be delayed by two years to 2016.
In a progress report in December, the agency said it had identified more than one thousand chemicals reportedly used in hydraulic fracturing fluids from 2005 to 2011, and found in flowback and produced water.
(Flowback water is waste water returned to the surface after the fracking process has been completed and includes all the fluids used in the fracking process to stimulate gas production. Produced water is defined as water flow associated with ongoing gas production, after the fracking operation has been completed. The water treatment process for the two types, collectively referred to as “hydraulic fracturing wastewater”, is different.)
“At this time, the EPA has not made any judgement about the extent of exposure to these chemicals when used in hydraulic fracturing fluids or found in hydraulic fracturing wastewater, or their potential impacts on drinking water resources,” the progress report stated.
The study is looking at five primary research questions:
* Water acquisition: what are the possible impacts of large-volume water withdrawals from ground and surface waters on drinking water resources?
* Chemical mixing: what are the possible impacts of hydraulic fracturing fluid surface spills on or near well pads on drinking water resources?
* Well injection: what are the possible impacts of the injection and fracturing process on drinking water resources?
* Flowback and produced water: what are the possible impacts of flowback and produced water surface spills on or near well pads on drinking water resources?
* Wastewater treatment and waste disposal: what are the possible impacts of inadequate treatment of hydraulic fracturing wastewater on drinking water resources? - Environment and Science Writer