Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

For Immediate Release

Press Release

Final EPA Study Concludes That Fracking Operations Can Contaminate Drinking Water


In a final report issued today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that fracking operations can impact drinking water “at each stage in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle”. The report walks back from a misleading summary statement that fracking poses “no widespread, systemic risks” to drinking water.

“EPA’s report confirms what experts and the science show: that fracking operations put our drinking water at risk,” said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America’s Stop Drilling Program. “That families from Colorado to Pennsylvania have had their water contaminated from fracking should be evidence enough, but today’s report confirms: fracking puts our water at risk.”

Fracking can pollute our waterways at several points in the process – from spills of fracking fluid to leaks from surface equipment or wastewater impoundments, well blowouts, and the escape of methane and other contaminants from the well. In Pennsylvania, regulators confirmed at least 260 instances of private well contamination from fracking operations since 2005. Independent journalists at Public Herald identified 2,309 complaints of pollution of private water wells from 17 out of the 40 Pennsylvania counties where fracking takes place.

The report, “Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources”, is a final version of the EPA’s draft assessment issued in June of 2015 that contained a summary statement suggesting that fracking has “not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources”. Yet as early as 2013, Environment America’s “Fracking by the Numbers” report identified over 1,000 instances in which, according to state data, fracking and its toxic wastewater had impacted drinking water sources. Additionally, data gaps and evidence throughout the EPA’s draft assessment indicated water contamination due to fracking.

These inconsistencies were brought to the surface by the EPA’s own panel of experts, its science advisory board, tasked with peer reviewing the landmark study. In addition to taking issue with the widely-criticized topline finding, the SAB pointed to data gaps such as the exclusion of Dimock, Pennsylvania, Pavillion, Wyoming, and Parker County, Texas, where water became so contaminated that residents could no longer drink water from their own tap. They also cited ambiguity on how the EPA reached its conclusion.

The science advisory board’s peer review process was open to public comment in which scientists tasked with reviewing the study heard from impacted community members, health professionals, and the scientific community that took issue with the study’s conclusions.

Today’s final report shows that impacts to drinking water were found at every step of the fracking water cycle from water acquisition, chemical mixing, well injection, the handling of produced wastewater, to the disposal of wastewater.

Additionally, the EPA acknowledged that due to “data gaps and uncertainties”, the report doesn’t paint a full picture of the severity of fracking’s impacts or the frequency with which fracking contaminates drinking water sources.

“The conclusion that fracking posed no widespread risk dominated media coverage and was used as fodder by fracking proponents to excuse a practice that increases pollution and puts out communities at risk,” Richardson said. “We urge the EPA to take into account its own findings and address the urgent need to protect clean water from fracking’s harms.”


With Environment America, you protect the places that all of us love and promote core environmental values, such as clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and clean energy to power our lives. We’re a national network of 29 state environmental groups with members and supporters in every state. Together, we focus on timely, targeted action that wins tangible improvements in the quality of our environment and our lives.

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·

Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·

Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·

'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·

House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo