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Ohio Utica Shale

Fracking implicated in groundwater pollution by EPA study

By Bob Downing Published: December 23, 2011

Before we can go foward, we need to look back.

One of the biggest news items on shale drilling came Dec. 8 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its preliminary study of ground water problems in west-central Wyoming.

The study from Pavilion, a community of 170, implicated fracking in ground water contamination for the first time, although criticism of the EPA report continues to build.

The EPA said it found compounds including hydrocarbons likely associated with fracking chemicals in the ground water where residents say the water reeks of chemicals.

The study got under way three years ago and a final report must still be prepared and released. Click here to see the draft EPA report.

Environmentalists praised the EPA report when it came out, while industry officials, political leaders and drilling experts knocked the findings and defended the drilling practice.

Encana Corp., the Canadian firm that owns 123 wells in Pavilion, said the EPA report dealt with probabilities, not as definitive conclusion.

A company spokesman said the glycols and alcohols found in the ground water could be from sample midshandling by the EPA. The chemicals found may be from other activities not just drilling and some may be naturally occurring.

It has been widely reported that the conditions in Wyoming are far different than other areas like Ohio.

The Wyoming drilling was far shallower and closer to an aquifer than is common in drilling in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio where fracking occurs far below drinking water aquifers.

In Wyoming, it is possible that natural gas itself may seep upward naturally through the rock and perhaps into aquifers.

Among the Ohio groups criticizing the EPA study were Energy in Depth (click here) for its analysis and geologist Tom Tomastik of the Ohio Department of Natural resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Managemkent. Cick here for his four-page critique.

Tomastik said the EPA report contains "truly flawed science" and "many deficiencies and concerns."

It appears that the findings may not be the definitive statement on fracking safety. The debate over the Wyoming results continues.

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.