A Stanford University study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, has determined that there is a "clear impact" on groundwater in Pavillion, Wyoming, where residents have observed the quality of their water deteriorating since the 1990s.
"This is a wake-up call," Dominic DiGiulio, the lead author of the study wrote. "It's perfectly legal to inject stimulation fluids into underground drinking water resources. This may be causing widespread impacts on drinking water resources."
The town of Pavillion is in close proximity to 180 drilling operations. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that the operations may have contaminated the town's water supply. Two years later, however, the EPA handed their investigation over to the state of Wyoming, after criticism from the local energy industries and the state's fossil fuel regulators, Common Dreams reported.
Once the investigation was in their hands, state regulators stopped all research, despite an alert from the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that residents not use tap water for drinking, cooking, or bathing.
"When you look at everything as a whole, it seems implausible that all this is due to natural conditions," DiGiulio told InsideClimate News. "When you look at the compounds, it's a virtual fingerprint of chemicals used in the field."
The study was conducted by obtaining reports through Freedom of Information Act requests, and the author states that the effects of these operations have spread far beyond the small town of Pavillion.
"Had the EPA finalized its own study with similar findings on Pavillion years ago, we might have already turned the corner toward a clean energy future," Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the environmental group Food & Water Watch, told Common Dreams. "But sadly the EPA continues to look the other way, much to the delight of the oil and gas industry. It's time for the Obama administration to deal with reality and address contamination from fracking in places like Pavillion, Wyoming; Dimock, Pennsylvania; and Parker County, Texas."