Recycling Gas Drilling Water Doesn't Stop Risks

Toxic wastewater can still get into drinking supply
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2011 2:20 PM CST
In this April 23, 2010 photo, workers move a section of well casing into place at a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site near Burlington, Pa.   (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)
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(Newser) – The New York Times continues raising alarms about the drilling practice known as hydrofracking, in which water is blasted into rock to extract natural gas. Today's piece focuses on the dangers posed by the contaminated water that returns to the surface. Drilling companies in Pennsylvania have billed water recycling as the solution, but the Times finds that less than half the wastewater produced is being reused in the drilling process—and even then the process leaves behind toxic sludge or salt.

What's more, some well operators are selling their wastewater to municipalities to be used in road de-icing and dust suppression, two methods that can result in the water leaching into the drinking supply. (Arkansas is also big on hydrofracking, but its geology allows drillers to dispose of wastewater by injecting it back into the ground; which is fine, except for the suspicions that it's causing earthquakes.) Meantime, the Times investigation that ran Sunday has prompted Pennsylvania's governor to ask the FDA to ramp up water safety tests, notes the Scranton Times-Tribune. (Read more hydrofracking stories.)

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