An article about fracking graced the front page of Tuesday’s edition of the Wall Street Journal. It argues that poorly constructed wells, not frackng itself, are the chief cause of water contamination.
Bradford County, Pa. is home to one of the largest documented water contamination sites. The company to blame, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, acknowledged faulty well construction may have been the cause and a state investigation confirmed when they found some wells weren’t adequately sealed.
Mark Boling, executive vice president and general counsel of Southwestern Energy Co., and Scott Anderson, a senior policy adviser with the Environmental Defense Fund, are working together to examine suspected drill-related water pollution incidents in Colorado and Pennsylvania. They, too, have found that well construction problems are the root cause of contamination.
“Every one we identified was caused by a failure of the integrity of the well, and almost always it was the cement job,” Boling said.
Anderson estimates that cement in about one in 10 wells isn’t sealed properly. When this is the case, gas slips seamlessly through the cracks and reaches the shallow aquifers that provide drinking water.
These findings are good news for the energy industry, which has been struggling to convince citizens that fracking is safe, because this risk is one that can be minimized. Still, some critics won’t budge. Maya Van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, said, “You may be able to fix one issue, but it doesn’t make the whole drilling process OK.”