Scientists optimistic on fracking and water pollution

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Hydraulic fracturing for natural gas hasn’t contaminated drinking water wells in Arkansas, according to a new study, but researchers said the geology there may be more of a natural barrier to pollution than in other areas where shale gas drilling takes place.

The most passionate critics and supporters of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, often describe the process in extremes, suggesting it is either inherently dangerous for the environment or that it poses virtually no risk at all. But Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor of geochemistry and water quality, said making generalizations about fracking in Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Colorado doesn’t make scientific sense.

“Each basin will have its own dynamics and its own rules,” he said of the possibility of contamination, adding that differences in well construction and regulations play a role, too.

Members of the U.S. Geological Survey also were part of the study, which examined 127 drinking water wells for evidence of pollution from methane gas or chemicals.