"Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that supply more than half of the nation's drinking water," ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten writes in a new report.
These aquifer exemptions, a little-known part of the government's Underground Injection Control program, allow companies to discard waste freely underground, and in many cases, no water monitoring or long-term study is required.
To make matters worse, Lustgarten found that the EPA hasn't even been keeping track of exactly how many exemptions have been issued, where they are, or whom they might affect.
Lustgarten explains that the recent surge in domestic drilling and rush for uranium has brought a spike in exemption applications, as well as political pressure not to block or delay them.
But the biggest problem now, experts say, is that the EPA's criteria for evaluating applications are outdated. "The rules - last revised nearly three decades ago - haven't adapted to improving water treatment technology and don't reflect the changing value and scarcity of fresh water."
He goes on to note specific problems in Colorado, California and Texas; how aquifers once considered unusable can now be processed for drinking water at a reasonable price using modern technology; and how EPA officials say the agency has quietly assembled an unofficial internal task force to re-evaluate its aquifer exemption policies.
Click here to read the story, entitled Poisoning the Well: How the Feds Let Industry Pollute the Nation's Underground Water Supply.
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.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
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.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.