Surface spills near fracking sites implicated in water contamination

DRILL AND SPILL  Accidental chemical spills at fracking sites in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale (one site shown above) may be the source of trace contaminations in nearby groundwater wells.  

U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons

Chemicals used in fossil fuel extraction appear to be creeping into drinking water from above.

In private wells near hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” sites in northeastern Pennsylvania, researchers identified trace amounts of chemicals similar to those found in gasoline and diesel. Fluids pumped into the ground during fracking contain similar compounds.

The type and proportions of the chemicals in the water samples indicate that the compounds came from aboveground, rather than from underground leaks from deep shale formations, faulty equipment, nearby oil wells or waste storage ponds. Accidental spills of fracking fluids at the surface are probably the source of this contamination, the scientists report October 12 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

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