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EPA Memo Suggests Tighter Fracking Wastewater Rules

frackA draft EPA memo leaked to DeSmogBlog.com details stricter standards for hydraulic fracturing permitting and makes clear that fracking wastewater discharges are covered under the Clean Water Act.

The document sets limits to protect water-quality and technology standards in the Clean Water Act. Clean Water Action attorney Myron Arnowitt, who reviewed the document on DeSmogBlog’s behalf described the memo as “an increased level of detail” for regional EPA staff compared to a previous memo released in 2011, DeSmogBlog reports.

The leaked memo is twice as long as the 2011 FAQ document. The new draft document also now lists “almost two dozen” contaminants including benzene, radium, and arsenic that it says have been found in high enough concentrations in fracking wastewater to be of concern. The 2011 FAQ only focused on salt levels in the water, DeSmogBlog reports.

Furthermore, the leaked document explains that the substances it lists are not the only ones that must be removed before wastewater can be considered safe. Processing facilities can only take wastewater once regulators have been made aware of what substances the wastewater containsDeSmogBlog reports.

Earlier this week, a report from Carnegie Mellon researchers found that in some drier locations, the shale gas boom is causing conflict among the energy industry, agricultural interests and residents over already-scarce water resources.

According to the report, a major criticism of extracting shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is that it requires tremendous amounts of water — 2.5 to 5 million gallons — to develop a single well.

Picture Credit: California fracking well via Shutterstock

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