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On Fracking: Now, Cracks in the Façade

Friday, August 5, 2011

By LeeAnn Brown, EWG Press Secretary Imagine, if you can: Nearly overnight, your water well begins producing slimy, off-color foul smelling and worse tasting water. It's unusable. You can't drink it. You can't bathe in it. You can't wash dishes or rinse produce. Your only option is to get clean water trucked in. That's not cheap, and to get those responsible for the contamination to pay for it, you have to sign away your rights to talk to anyone - neighbors, the media, government officials and scientists - about what happened to your well. Ever.

Industry Talking Points

Through these confidentiality agreements, the natural gas industry has essentially bought the silence of an unknown number of landowners whose water was fouled by drilling activity, allowing it to keep repeating the false incantation: There is not one proven case of hydraulic fracturing contaminating an underground drinking water source. Repeat that a few times and you've got the industry's talking points down pat, which it has used with great success to fend off the many anecdotal complaints of water contamination by hydraulic fracturing, also called "fracking." Until now.

EWG Uncovered Evidence of Contamination

EWG senior counsel Dusty Horwitt tracked down a long-forgotten report by the Environmental Protection Agency that specifically identified hydraulic fracturing as the cause of a case of water well contamination in West Virginia, and suggested it was typical of other cases that had been shrouded in secrecy under confidentiality agreements. The EPA report said the documented case was "illustrative" of a broader problem. EWG's new report, Cracks in the Facade, is online, illustrated with graphics that help you to visualize what may have happened in this case. Also, take a look at this year's "Drilling Down" series in the New York Times, which has done extensive reporting on natural gas drilling. New to gas drilling issues, or need a refresher? Take a look at EWG's gas drilling site and its research on the issue. Stay informed by following EWG's Twitter feed on fracking, @EWGfracking.

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