The United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) released a 2016 report titled:

Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas: Impacts from the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle on Drinking Water Resources of the United States (“Report”)

The Report had been undertaken at the request of the United States Congress.

EPA states the goals of the study included:

  • Assessment of the potential for activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle to impact the quality or quantity of drinking water resources
  • Identification of factors that affect the frequency or severity of these impacts

The agency states that the activities it undertook to achieve these goals included:

  • Independent research
  • Engagement of stakeholders through technical workshops and roundtables
  • A review of approximately 1,200 cited sources of data and information

EPA notes in part that the relevant activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances. It further states that:

. . .impacts can range in frequency and severity, depending on the combination of hydraulic fracturing water cycle activities and local- or regional-scale factors.

Certain combinations of activities and factors are identified as more likely than others to result in more frequent and more severe impacts. These are stated to include:

  • Water withdrawals for hydraulic fracturing in times or areas of low water availability, particularly in areas with limited or declining groundwater resources
  • Spills during the management of hydraulic fracturing fluids and chemicals or produced water that result in large volumes of high concentrations of chemicals reaching groundwater resources
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into wells with inadequate mechanical integrity, allowing gases or liquids to move to groundwater resources
  • Injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids directly into groundwater resources
  • Discharge of inadequately treated hydraulic fracturing wastewater to surface water resources
  • Disposal or storage of hydraulic fracturing wastewater in unlined pits, resulting in contamination of groundwater resources

The 600-plus page Report (plus 572 pages of appendices) contains chapters addressing:

  • Drinking Water Resources in the United States
  • Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas in the United States
  • Water Acquisition
  • Chemical Mixing
  • Well Injection
  • Produced Water Handling
  • Wastewater Disposal and Reuse
  • Identification and Hazard Evaluation of Chemicals Across the Hydraulic Fracturing Water Cycle
  • Synthesis

A link to the Report can be found here.