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The Environmental Protection Agency has weighed in on the fracking debate to say, for the first time, that the controversial practice may contribute to groundwater pollution. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, sounds a lot like something that might pollute groundwater since it mostly involves pumping water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to loosen up and collect natural gas and oil. But to date, the industry has maintained that fracking is well-controlled and doesn't affect drinking water or the environment, and the EPA hasn't publicly disagreed. The Associated Press reports:
The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found low levels hydrocarbons in their wells.
The AP notes the EPA was careful to say that the results only apply to Pavillion and not other areas that use fracking, but this is a time when a lot of states are engaged in big debate
over regulating fracking, and the news isn't likely to help the industry's case. Indeed environmentalists have already praised the report while the industry has already taken issue with it. It's sure, for instance, to be noted in Amwell Pennsylvania, a town profiled in a great New York Times Magazine piece last month
which painted a picture of the divisive arguments and confusion surrounding just how fracking impacts those who live close to it. On the other hand, CNBC reports today, "In the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, which is also experiencing a drilling boom, drilling occurs much farther below water sources, which could make pollution from fluids harder to migrate into aquifers." So while today's results don't bring any conclusion to the debate, they're sure to provide ammunition for one side.
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is an associate digital editor at Boston Magazine
and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Wire.