The fluids used for hydraulic fracturing in California oil wells contain dozens of hazardous chemicals that have the potential to contaminate drinking water, air and soil and to harm human health, according to a new report by EWG.
In the analysis, California’s Toxic Fracking Fluids: The Chemical Recipe, EWG deconstructs drilling companies’ use of 200 unique chemicals in nearly 700 wells across the state, with each company deploying around two dozen chemicals.
Tasha Stoiber, EWG senior scientist and a co-author of the report, says California has one of the most comprehensive and transparent disclosure programs in the US, which makes it the “best window” on what chemicals are being injected into the ground.
Of the chemicals added to fracking fluid in California, 15 are listed under the state’s Proposition 65 as known causes of cancer or reproductive harm, 12 are listed under the Clean Air Act as hazardous air pollutants known to cause cancer or other harm and 93 are associated with harm to aquatic life.
In March, EWG released its report Toxic Stew that detailed California’s contaminated fracking wastewater.
The EWG report recommends that state officials:
- Determine where less harmful alternatives can replace toxic chemicals currently used;
- Immediately halt operations that are injecting drilling wastewater into potential sources of drinking or agricultural water;
- Monitor groundwater in oil and gas areas and properly enforce model criteria developed under the California disclosure law.
An EPA study published in June found that fracking activities in the US have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources, according to an EPA study released yesterday. However, it said there are potential vulnerabilities in the fracking water lifecycle that could impact drinking water.
A process to make fracking water-neutral, by making treating and recycling contaminated oilfield water more economical, is under development by MIT spinout Gradiant Corporation.