A team from the University of Texas in Arlington recently released a study that found drinking water from water wells contained chemicals that are used in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
In fracking, chemicals are usually mixed with water to create a pressurized liquid that will fracture rock formations to allow natural gas and oil to be reached by energy companies. However, environmentalists have long been concerned that this liquid could seep into drinking water.
The researchers, led by Kevin Schug, a professor of analytical chemistry at the university, tested 550 water samples that were taken from wells located in North Texas' Barnett Shale region. The samples were collected over a period of three years.
According to a press release, the study "found elevated levels of 10 different metals as well as the presence of 19 different chemicals compounds including so-called BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes) compounds associated with hydraulic fracturing. The study also found elevated levels of methanol and ethanol."
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website: "Oil and natural gas production emits benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylenes (BTEX) as well as n-hexane and VOC."
The EPA lists numerous short-term and long-term effects from exposure to these chemicals, including cancer (benzene), birth defects (toluene), blood disorders (ethyl benzene) and neurological problems (xylenes).
The researchers stress that they do not have proof that fracking caused this potential groundwater contamination, but noted that the Barnett Shale area includes "20,000 unconventional drilling wells" such as fracking sites.
The study was published in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.