EPA Declares 'Fracking May Be To Blame For Causing Groundwater Pollution'

Kyle Taylor/CC BY 2.0
Wyoming landscape.

If your water tastes polluted, smells polluted, and makes you feel polluted, then damn it it's polluted. I guess they figured that out finally. They being the field sampling and lab testing experts under contract to USEPA. The Trib.com reports that "The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals."

So there you have it. Actual scientific evidence that fracking fracked up a small town's water supply. (Pavillion WY has 165 people, 77 households, and 50 families.) Realize that groundwater moves very slowly and it will take years, perhaps decades, for dilution to be the answer to that pollution.

The Inhofe gang already has announced the study was "not based on sound science but rather on political science." Probably the press release was in the back pocket, ready to go.

Here's the thing.
Pavillion has been around for a really long time. If this stuff appeared in people's wells in the last few years and it didn't come from fracking then where did it come from, Senator?

From the EPA report (pdf download). Contamination from chemicals of concern in the Pavillion area was originally alleged by local residents when visual and odor parameters for several domestic wells changed. Visual changes included yellow color, increased turbidity, oil sheen, and inclusion of small bubbles/gas. Odor change in the domestic wells can be described as a hydrocarbon odor. Prior screening sampling and analyses indicate chemicals of concern in domestic wells with unknown risks to health and unknown sources. A previous Focused Site Inspection (FSI) performed by EPA narrowed the area of concern to an area in and around 11 wells that possessed detections of methane, Volatile Petroleum Hydrocarbons (VPH), tentatively identified semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrate, arsenic, phthalates and caprolactam.

Pthalates in the groundwater? How did plasticizers make their way into the groundwater beneath a tiny rural town in Wyoming unless someone put them there?

Via Wikipedia: "Caprolactam is the precursor to Nylon 6, a widely used synthetic polymer...In water, caprolactam hydrolyzes to aminocaproic acid, which is used medicinally." (It's an anti-mocrobial agent.) Think there's a nylon producer or pharmaceutical company in that town? I sure don't.

For you organic chemists: a challenge. Estimate hydrolysis rate of caprolactum at 45 degrees F (rough approximation of groundwater temp) and use that to figure out a half-life. Then project the maximum time needed for that stuff to completely hydrolyze. Send us a comment. Show your work, please.

Tags: Fracking