Drilling and fracking have caused many cases of water contamination across the country. The actual number of cases is unknown as a result of poor or non-existent oversight and regulation, oil and gas industry secrecy, and non-disclosure agreement settlements that hides the truth from the public and scientists alike. Nevertheless, more and more cases are emerging. In Pennsylvania, for example, the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is notorious for favoring the gas industry, now confirms at least 280 cases of water contamination. Spills and surface water contamination are common.
Inherent problems in the drilling and fracking process including well casing and integrity failures inevitably lead to water contamination. According to the oil and gas industry’s own data, about five percent of wells leak immediately, 50 percent after 15 years, and 60 percent after 30 years. Data from Pennsylvania indicate that about 9 percent of wells have leaked within the first five years. These failures create pathways for contamination, leading to water pollution.
In their comprehensive Compendium of the scientific evidence, the experts organizations Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York summarized the issue of water contamination in part:
“… Emerging evidence reveals that drilling and fracking inherently threaten groundwater and have polluted drinking water sources. A range of studies from across the United States presents irrefutable evidence that groundwater contamination occurs as a result of fracking activities and is more likely to occur close to well pads….Of the 1,000 different chemicals that are known ingredients in fracking fluid, an estimated 100 are known endocrine disruptors and act as reproductive and developmental toxicants.”
Regarding water pollution, New York State concluded from its review, “The Department concludes that spills or releases in connection with high-volume hydraulic fracturing could have significant adverse impacts on water resources… there is a risk that well integrity can fail, especially over time, and questions have arisen about whether high volume hydraulic fracturing can cause seismic changes which could potentially result in fracturing fluid migration through abandoned wells or existing fissures and faults. Thus, high volume hydraulic fracturing could result in significant adverse impacts to water resources from well construction and fracturing fluid migration.”