The latest attempt to tie fracking to water pollution in northern Pennsylvania has been debunked by state regulators.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Monday announced that, after a 16-month investigation, there’s no evidence to connect natural gas drilling with high levels of methane found in private water supplies in the small town of Franklin Forks.
“The testing determined that the water samples taken from the private water wells contained gas of similar isotopic makeup to the gas in the water samples taken from Salt Springs State Park,” which contains naturally high levels of methane, the agency said in a statement.
The Franklin Forks case had attracted national attention, and the families allegedly affected by fracking had been the subject of numerous anti-fracking media reports. Rolling Stone magazine, for example, featured one Franklin Forks family in a lengthy photo essay titled “Fracking’s Real-Life Victims.” They believed that nearby natural gas drilling was ruining their property and had rendered their water unusable and undrinkable.
Similar claims have been made elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in other spots across the nation.
Thus far, however, there have been no confirmed cases of fracking contaminating water supplies — something former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has admitted to Congress twice.
The drilling method, more formally known as hydraulic fracturing, uses massive amounts of water combined with sand and chemicals to crack underground rock and release trapped methane. It’s being used extensively throughout northern and western Pennsylvania and in other states such as Ohio, Colorado, Texas and North Dakota.
While environmental groups and others surely will dispute the Franklin Forks findings, Pennsylvania officials made perfectly clear that nearby fracking simply could not be responsible for the elevated methane levels.
“The water samples taken from the private water wells was not of the same origin as the natural gas in the nearby gas wells,” the agency said.