Hydraulic fracking tied to groundwater pollution


— Hydraulic fracturing, a controversial oil-and-gas production technique used in Colorado and across the country, has been linked for the first time to groundwater pollution in a case near Pavillion, Wyo.

The finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday set off calls for tighter rules on the so- called fracking process, which pumps fluid into wells under pressure to fracture rock and release oil and gas.

"This could be a game changer," said Frank Smith, an organizer with the Western Colorado Congress, an environmental group.

Wyoming and Colorado officials said the EPA data should first be carefully reviewed.

Warning that the EPA study could have "a critical impact on the energy industry and the country," Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said more research has to be done.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said the Pavillion results will be reviewed, adding that Colorado has rules to protect ground and surface water.

But Smith countered: "Colorado shouldn't be so cavalier and overconfident about its rules. There is a lesson to be learned here."

For the full Denver Post story, click here.


hillclinger 5 years, 4 months ago

seemesled will likely say drill baby drill too much gvt regulation socialism etc screw future generations lets consume baby consume no matter what the cost.

God forbid we should conserve as a way of reducing our dependence on foreign oil rather than taking risks with our environment. Steamboat Institute will likely say we need a bigger army because its our freedom (oil) at stake. (Insert carefully chosen Ben Franklin quote to prove point) Yes! Genius! Let's subsidize the military so we can keep our fuel prices artificially low, instead of letting the market dictate the true price of the black oxygen we should be paying...which would of course lead to innovation with regard to more efficient vehicles and changes in behavior. But status quo let's go! Gimme my F950 so I can get the groceries!


Lura Gerhart 5 years, 4 months ago

Short term choices have gotten us into the current recession (quick and easy mortgages that could not be sustained over the long haul, etc.). Let's start thinking long term and choose to invest in solar and wind energy rather than drilling, which will most definitely harm us in the long run. Since jobs can be created in both industries, why choose a short term solution by continuing on the current destructive path of drilling? As hillclinger implies, if you want to protect future generations, then DO IT by embracing conservation and choosing renewable resources.


sedgemo 5 years, 4 months ago

This is not good news for anyone.

I think a lot of folks are overlooking some facts, though. People (in many instances your neighbors) have sold their mineral rights to others. The purchasers own the rights and often have a time period within which they must drill exploratory wells.

The ideas of pursuing alternative energy forms and reducing demand are well and good, but don't affect what is happening here and now.

The county has limited authority to control development by owners of these rights. Someone sold them, presumably for a profit, and someone else bought them with a profit in mind. So the choice to develop or not develop is not ours, or the county's but belongs to the owners of those rights.

More creative solutions might be finding ways for neighborhoods to purchase back their mineral rights, or finding safer ways to extract and process these resources for those whose cash is already on the table.

We need to focus on finding sane direction for those involved here and now.


sledneck 5 years, 4 months ago

Do they sell gas by the type of vehicle or by the gallon?

I'm long nat gas so a prohibition on fracking will make me $$$$$. Bring it.


rhys jones 5 years, 4 months ago

Dad could've built a power plant out of his garage; it's his estimating system I've digitized and am trying to market. He did power plants and refineries almost exclusively.

It's all about megawatts. We need lots of those. While solar and wind can produce a pittance, and contribute to the grid, coal and nuclear yet bear the brunt, and that will not change in the near future. Many new gas turbines are appearing, a much cleaner burner than coal, but they're still just a dent, and we're still talking fossil fuel.

If you choose the "alternative source" (or whatever) surcharge on your electric bill, your funds will ostensibly go to these alternative sources (minus skimming) yet still no more than 5%-10% of your total electricity will be supplied by alternative sources, IF THAT. The grid does not discriminate. The electrons firing your screen right now were most likely generated at Palo Verde, if not Hayden. Electrons are a lot like water, only way faster.

All I'm saying is, it's coming, folks, and as much as I'd like to be a tree-hugger on this one, fossil fuels and nuclear are the foreseeable future, watt per buck. I'm just lucky (or would be) that the facilities and their upgrade is right down my alley.

"Everybody wants pizza." -- Dad

I really do hope they do it safely, but we're just ants, folks, in a great big experiment.


ybul 5 years, 4 months ago

--While solar and wind can produce a pittance--

Wind turbines from ND to the Panhandle of Texas can provide an adequate and consistent base load for all the countries power needs.


Rick Akin 5 years, 4 months ago

I just read an analysis of this problem in Wyoming. It is true that the data is inconclusive, but here is the part omitted in this story. The gas producing formations involved were as shallow as 1220 feet. Water wells in the area are as deep as 800 feet. This is pretty unusual. Also some of the wells fracked were drilled in the 1950s and the casing cement was of questionable quality. I would think these would have been warning signs. When I grew up in Oklahoma, fracking was exceedingly common (1960s and 70s). But the oil and gas formations were 3200-6000 feet deep and water was produced around 50-150 feet deep. Groundwater contamination was basically unheard of.
So, I think we should be slow to extrapolate anything from this Wyoming situation, whether or not fracking caused any groundwater issues.


sedgemo 5 years, 4 months ago

@ rakin:

Below is from a cursory USGS site search. Colorado's geology is very different from Oklahoma's, and much more similar to Wyoming. The Dakota aquifer is one found in Routt Co. and per USGS it can be quite extensive in depth. Their site indicates the Glen Canyon aquifer has similar characteristics.

It may turn out the WY leak is from older, failing well casings, but we have plenty of old oil wells in Routt Co., too, from as far back as the 1901 north of Milner.


Aquifer Characteristics

The transmissivity of the Dakota aquifer is poorly defined but probably ranges from less than 10 to about 100 feet squared per day in the northeastern part of the Colorado Plateaus. The large thickness of permeable rocks in the Glen Canyon aquifer produces transmissivities that generally range from about 100 to 1,000 feet squared per day; fractures form the principal pathways for water movement in the well-consolidated materials.

The Dakota aquifer is present in the Piceance and Uinta Basins, along the Wasatch and High Plateaus, in the Kaiparowits, Henry Mountains, Black Mesa, and San Juan Basins, in the eastern part of the Four Corners Platform, and in parts of the Paradox Basin and Uncompahgre Uplift (fig. 120). The depth to the top of the aquifer is less than 2,000 feet in many areas but exceeds 12,000 feet in parts of the Piceance and Uinta Basins (fig. 123).


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