Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) has not contaminated groundwater in northwestern West Virginia, but accidental spills of fracking wastewater may pose a threat to surface water in the region, according to a new study led by scientists at Duke University.
Thus, from this study, injecting wastewater back into the ground was found better for the environment.
“Based on consistent evidence from comprehensive testing, we found no indication of groundwater contamination over the three-year course of our study,” said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. ”However, we did find that spill water associated with fracked wells and their wastewater has an impact on the quality of streams in areas of intense shale gas development.”
Vengosh and other scientists concluded that, while fracking did not contaminate the groundwater, accidental spills of fracking wastewater could pose a threat to surface water in the area. “The bottom-line assessment,” he continued, “is that groundwater is so far not being impacted, but surface water is more readily contaminated because of the frequency of spills.”
Researchers collected water samples from 112 drinking wells in northwestern West Virginia and studied them over a three year period. They sampled 20 of the water wells before drilling or fracking started in the area in order to obtain a baseline for later comparisons.
Duke’s study draws similar conclusions to the scientific studies from regulatory bodies, academics, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) that determined that fracking has not contaminated groundwater or drinking water.