Inhofe Is Wrong: Five Famous Times Fracking Contaminated Our Water

Bradford County, PA fracking spill

“Since the first use of hydraulic fracturing,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) claimed in a Tuesday op-ed in the Hill defending the natural gas industry, “producers have completed more than 1.5 million fracturing jobs without one confirmed case of groundwater contamination from these fracked formations.”

Inhofe, who has made this claim before, is simply wrong. Rather than go through every environmental violation or instance of groundwater contamination, here’s a list of five famous instances where deep natural gas drilling, using the technique known as hydraulic fracturing or hydrofracking, has resulted in groundwater contamination:

1: Sublette County, Wyoming was the first site of groundwater contamination to be documented by a federal agency, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in 2008. Water from more than 88 drinking wells was contaminated and found to contain benzene, a chemical that causes leukemia, at concentrations up to 1,500 times a safe level.

2: The town of Dimock, Pennsylvania began to have water bottles delivered to them by Cabot Oil & Gas after the company’s fracking contaminated the entire town’s water supply in 2009. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (D.E.P.) began to investigate after people felt dizzy whenever they showered, when their “water started turning brown and making them sick, one woman’s water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.”

3: Duke University scientists collected water samples from 68 wells in New York and Pennsylvania, finding unsafe levels of methane. According to the report, which was released in the National Academy of Sciences, the closer a sampled well was to active natural gas drilling, the higher the methane level within the well, especially if the well was shallow.

4: A blowout in Bradford County, Pennsylvania sent 30,000 gallons of fracking fluid into the Susquehanna River Watershed, which serves the Chesapeake Bay and more than 6 million people. As a result of the spill, Chesapeake Energy is facing a lawsuit from the state of Maryland.

5: The people of the Pittsburgh region were advised by D.E.P. officials in 2008 to drink only bottled water during a drought because wastewater produced by fracking was at dangerous levels in the Monongahela river.

The process of hydraulic fracturing has many documented hazards. Nevertheless, Sen Inhofee continues to peddle industry talking points and denials. Inhofe accepted more than $450,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in the last cycle alone, even though he was not up for re-election.

Sean Savett

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