As I shared with you earlier last month, these companies are protected from adhering with the Safe Drinking Water Act, which binds any polluting action from being carried out in or around public drinking water supplies, by a loophole provided by the Bush Administration in 2005. Also, since that loophole was instilled, the powers of the E.P.A. have been restricted, and their ability to investigate water wells for contamination from natural gas drilling has been removed. Also, a trade secret loophole assured that energy companies did not have to publicly reveal exactly what chemicals they used in the process of hydraulic fracturing. Thank you, again, Mr. Cheney.
But a recent discovery of chemicals associated with natural gas drilling in people's drinking water in Wyoming has raised the issue once again, and the E.P.A. has found its own loophole- the Superfund Program. The designation of a site as a Superfund gives the E.P.A. extended sovereignty over the testing and rehabilitation of that area. In the case of the Wyoming water wells, they have the power to investigate chemicals found in drinking water, as well as to subpoena information from the energy companies- allowing them to access the data on what chemicals are being used and in how much abundance.
The agency is currently investigating whether or not the wells are indeed contaminated by fracturing chemicals. So far agricultural poisoning is reasoned out, as no pesticides or herbicides were found among the harmful chemicals; as were common household cleaners, whose chance of contamination is "less than one in a million," according to Dole Ward, and independent water specialist living in Wyoming.
It would not be the first time that fracturing companies stood guilty in the face of the public. Although never proven guilty in a court of law, the Canadian company Encanca has settled out of court with many residents surrounding its drilling sites, and has even bought residents' land and supplied them with fresh drinking water from a separate source, after a woman suffering from poor health found many dangerous contaminants in her water.
It is a terrible shame that local residents of Wyoming have lived with such detrimental components in their water. If the E.P.A.'s findings prove the guilt of hydraulic fracturing, however, it could mean monumental changes in the policy affecting the practice. Perhaps the currently proposed amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which would call for the accountability of the energy companies in terms of public health safety and environmental responsibility, would be passed and made into law; preventing the further contamination of our water wells and reservoirs, and giving us the peace of mind that our water is clean and safe... ahh, now that would be refreshing.