Just five years ago advocates for natural gas fracking were insisting that no drinking water, stream or lake had ever been contaminated by a fracking operation.
That might have been true for a short window of time. But already a tiny town in Wyoming, Pavillion, had reported water pollution that appeared to come from natural gas drilling. Not long after that residents in Dimock, Pennsylvania discovered their well water was undrinkable after natural gas wells were drilled nearby.
Those cases were contentious, but they became the first casualties of the natural gas drilling industry (though industry officials still dispute that drilling was to blame and the EPA has left residents in the lurch).
But the trickle of public complaints soon became a gusher. Angry crowds and lawsuits pointing to fracking-related water and air pollution as well as earthquakes surfaced across the drilling regions of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas. (And independent studies came along to confirm what the EPA equivocated on.)
Today, heavily drilled Washington County, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, joined the list of fracking foul-ups when state officials found water and soil pollution seeping from three of nine impoundments containing waste water from natural gas fracking.
Range Resources is the drilling operator responsible for the the impoundments, where water that flows back from fracked natural gas drilling is stored. These containments are necessary because natural gas fracking involves adding multiple toxic chemicals and sand to water to blast open gas deposits deep underground. Much of the water used in boring a well returns to the surface and must be stored, in containment ponds or injection wells because it contains a roster of dangerous chemicals.
The company issued a statement, not about this incident, but saying it cared about water management.
More inspections and monitoring is planned to better understand the extent and compounds that are leaking in Washington County. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes Department of Environment officials as saying that one monitoring well exceeded by double the threshold for chloride.
See the Post-Gazette for more details and to see a map of the sites.