A new Duke University study links hydraulic fracturing, the controversial gas drilling process, to water contamination. But, like similar studies in the past, there are pros and cons, and questions linger.
The study, co-authored by Rob Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, found that homeowners living near shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of drinking water contamination from stray gases.
Jackson's team analyzed 141 drinking water samples from private water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania’s gas-rich Marcellus Shale basin. This is the Duke’s third study linking fracking to groundwater contamination.
Jim Smith, spokesman for the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York, finds faults with Duke's analysis. Smith says the Duke studies conflict with those done by the United States Geological Survey.
Fracking opponents argue the gas extraction method uses toxic chemicals that threaten our health and our communities. They call U.S. Environmental Proection Agency's recent decision to abandon its investigation around fracking-related water contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, shameful. Jim Smith says the EPA has stated repeatedly that there are no instances of frack water ever coming in contact with ground water: he calls the challenges of drilling "substantial but manageable." Rob Jackson counters purity of drinking water is of major public interest. Jackson has been testing water in New York, which hasn’t yet ruled on fracking. Results have yet to be fully analyzed.
The Cuomo Administration did not return a call for comment.