Confirming Fears, Scientists Detect Fracking Chemicals in Drinking Water

A toxic chemical used in the controversial drilling practice known as fracking has been detected in the drinking-water supply of Pennsylvania homeowners, according to a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The chemical—2-Butoxyethanol or 2BE, known to have caused tumors in rodents—showed up as “white foam,” which one researcher “likened to dishwashing suds.”

The PNAS study, Evaluating a groundwater supply contamination incident attributed to Marcellus Shale gas development, suggests that drilling fluid escaped the narrow, vertical borehole while crews were first drilling the gas well, and then moved laterally along intermediate depth fractures to the aquifer used as a potable water source.

“This is the first case published with a complete story showing organic compounds attributed to shale gas development found in a homeowner’s well,” said Penn State geoscientist Susan Brantley, one of the study’s authors. Explaining further, she said: “This is the first documented and published demonstration of toxic compounds escaping from uncased boreholes in shale gas wells and moving long distances” into drinking water.

In other words, “the scientists believe that the pollution may come from a lack of integrity in the well which passes through the drinking aquifer and not the actual fracking process below.”

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