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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Bill to Block Clean Water Rule

USEPA Seeks Input on Risk Management Plan Rule Updates

Medications Among the Chemicals Found in MN Lakes and Streams

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USEPA Releases Hydraulic Fracturing Study Results

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) released its draft assessment on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, activities on drinking water resources. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, shows that while fracking activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread or systemic impacts on drinking water resources, there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water.

As illustrated below, the assessment followed the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal.

EPA fracking graphic

USEPA’s review of data found specific instances where well integrity and wastewater management related to fracking activities impacted drinking water resources, but they were small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, to drinking water resources. However, the report was not designed to provide a list of documented impacts. ”Although not yet final, USEPA’s study reinforces the need to use sound and sensible water management practices, and the basin-specific nature of those practices.  Risks, vulnerabilities and best practices vary from basin to basin,” says Gary Cline, AE2S Drinking Water Practice Leader.

The list of vulnerabilities include:

  • 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
  • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water

USEPA says States play a primary role in regulating most natural gas and oil development, and the USEPA’s authority is limited by statutory or regulatory exemptions under the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Where USEPA’s exemptions exist, States may have authority to regulate unconventional oil and gas extraction activities under their own State laws.

The study will be finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and comment. Public comments can be logged via the Federal Register through August 28, 2015.

If you have questions or concerns about your drinking water system’s potential vulnerabilities, contact Gary Cline, AE2S Drinking Water Practice Leader, at Gary.Cline@ae2s.com.

 

If you have any questions concerning the content of this newsletter,
please contact Heather Syverson at 701-364-9111 or Heather.Syverson@ae2s.com.
 
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