Does Fracking Contaminate Drinking Water? The Debate Continues

We have posted several times already on the concerns that many have regarding fracking and its potential to contaminate groundwater and potentially cause hazardous chemicals to enter our drinking water.  For example, here, here, here, and here...which isn't even to mention the Jeff Goodell Rolling Stone piece that went after fracking.

Yet, it seems appropriate to post about it again, since few things could be of more practical concern to residents in areas where shale development is happening than the thought of potential disease arising from contaminated drinking water.  Two recent articles again illustrate that the issue isn't cut and dry.  More after the jump...

First comes an article from the Wheeling News Register which outlines the steps that Wetzel County residents are being encouraged to take by the Wetzel County Action Group.  Residents are instructed to take a camera with them wherever they go and attempt to catch oil and gas workers engaging in any conduct that could be deemed inappropriate.

Bonnie Hall, a member of the group, says that a host of problems await any in potential drilling areas, including fires, traffic accidents, and spills.  Thus, she encourages the community to help monitor the actions of the energy companies, although she must acknowledge at the same time that many continue to support the drilling activity because of the economic benefits.

John Stolz, director of the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, brought up his concerns regarding the poor steel or cement casings which have been at the root of some of the problems associated with fracking.  "A good casing lasts, maybe 50 or 60 years," he speculated.

Ben Stout, professor of biology at Wheeling Jesuit University, also raised concerns, stating that those who rely on well water are at particular risk from fracking.  "Every day - you need to get your water tested every day," Stout says.

That would be fine with Ralph Yanora, who is at the center of the next article dealing with drinking water and fracking.  Yanora owns Pennsylvania Water Specialists Co./Yanora Enterprises in Pittston, PA.

An article in The Times Leader discusses Yanora's connection with the oil and gas drilling in the area.  As someone who has been called in to test water in areas where drilling is going on, he has a unique perspective on how big of a threat fracking is.  His conclusion?

Yanora said from what he's seen the drilling has not affected water sources negatively.  "So far testing of private wells has shown that trace amounts of methane and bacteria were present before drilling, and that's normal for wells," Yanora says.  This echoes what many reports that the oil and gas industry like to bring up have said about shale drilling.

While the idea of the water being called safe by Yanora may not agree with the views of the Wetzel County Action Group, both articles do feature comments from individuals who are in agreement on one thing.

The Times Leader quotes Colleen Connolly, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman, as saying "DEP recommends testing wells every year," to get baseline numbers for various contaminants and thus be aware if the levels of any dangerous substance begin to increase in your drinking water.  She adds that residents should use testing companies certified by the DEP to perform this testing.

Of course, that doesn't completely agree Ben Stout's feeling that residents should test their water every day, but at least both he and Connolly agree that testing it is a good idea.

Are you worried that fracking could contaminate your drinking water?  Are you having your water tested regularly because of the drilling that is going on?  I'd be very interested to hear your comments on this topic, here or on the message board.  Give us a shout and let us know where your thinking is on this one!

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