EPA study on fracking threat to water will take years
By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal staff writer
Published: June 18, 2013 - 11:11 PM
CLEVELAND: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is analyzing the threat that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses to drinking water, but that study won’t be completed until 2016.
That assessment came Tuesday from Jeanne Briskin, coordinator of hydraulic fracturing research at the EPA’s Office of Research and Development.
She was among the speakers at “Shale Gas: Promises and Challenges,” a two-day conference staged by the National Academy of Engineering, held in Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Case Western Reserve, Cleveland State and Kent State universities sponsored the conference, which attracted 850 people Tuesday.
Briskin said the EPA probably would complete and release a preliminary report in late 2014. It is “complex research,” she said.
In 2010, Congress directed the agency to investigate the threat to groundwater and air from hydraulic fracturing in Ohio and other states.
Briskin outlined what her agency has done so far and the work that still must be completed. It is sampling water in two drilling counties in Pennsylvania plus in Colorado, North Dakota and Texas.
Nine energy companies and nine drilling-supply companies have cooperated with the EPA research, and 1,000 chemicals have been identified as being used in the fracking process, Briskin said.
Stanford University professor Mark Zoback expressed concern over injection wells that are used in Ohio and other states for disposal of liquid drilling wastes.
He said drillers are injecting “too much water too fast,” and that’s increasing underground pressure that can, in some cases, trigger small earthquakes, like those that hit Youngstown in late 2011.
It is probable that problem injection wells increasingly will be shut down to avoid future earthquake problems, he said. Drillers will have to avoid injecting near faults, limit inje