New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection last week issued a report that casts serious doubts on the common natural gas drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which injects water, sand and chemicals deep underground to free up more gas.
A looming drilling boom in the Marcellus Shale of New York and Pennsylvania has regulators digging deep into the potential impacts of fracking on groundwater supplies, although some industry officials maintain there’s never been a documented case of contamination resulting from a frack anywhere in the United States.
That’s a debatable claim, but the process in Colorado is enough of a concern — at least anecdotally — that U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver) last summer introduced the Fracturing Responsibility and Chemical Awareness (FRAC) Act.
Growing concern about fracking in more populated places like New York City and even smaller New York cities like Syracuse will no doubt add more fuel to the fire in the increasingly heated debate about whether the EPA should regulate the process under the Safe Drinking Water Act – an exemption it gained during the Bush administration in 2005.
Here’s an expert from the executive summary from the New York City report:
“Intensive natural gas well development in the watershed brings an increased level of risk to the water supply: risk of degrading source water quality, risk to long-term watershed health and the city’s ability to rely on natural processes for what is accomplished elsewhere by physical and chemical treatment processes, risk of damaging critical infrastructure, and the risk of exposing watershed residents and potentially NYC residents to chronic low levels of toxic chemicals.”