Between 100,000 and 120,000 wells were drilled and fraced from 2011 to 2014, but few led to issues with drinking waterrig_cool_clouds

A draft assessment released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today claims that “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources,” according to an EPA press release.

The assessment compiles date from 950 sources of published information, published papers, technical reports, information from stakeholders and peer-reviewed EPA scientific reports. It found that while there are some instances in which hydraulic fracturing impacted drinking water, they happened very infrequently when considering the number of wells present across the U.S.

The EIA estimates that 25,000-30,000 new wells drilled and hydraulically fractured annually in the United States between 2011 and 2014, or between 100,000 and 120,000 wells, excluding those that were drilled prior to 2011. Between 2000 and 2013, approximately 6,800 sources of drinking water for public water systems were located within one mile of a hydraulically fractured well. These drinking water sources served more than 8.6 million people year-round in 2013, according to the EPA.

“EPA’s draft assessment will give state regulators, tribes and local communities and industry around the country a critical resource to identify how best to protect public health and their drinking water resources,” said Dr. Thomas A. Burke, EPA’s Science Advisor and deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

The EPA did outline some areas of potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, which included:

  • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources;
  • And Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

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