By Tom Burke
Clean and safe drinking water is central to public health—something that we work hard every day at EPA to protect.
Today, we’ve taken an important step forward in this mission. With the release of our final assessment of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, EPA is providing a strong scientific foundation for states and local decision makers to better protect drinking water resources in areas where hydraulic fracturing occurs or is being considered.
When EPA started this study, we were asked by Congress to scientifically assess the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water.
As part of conducting these studies, we met with stakeholders, collecting input that helped to make our work stronger. We reviewed thousands of sources of data and information. And we advanced the scientific understanding of hydraulic fracturing activities and their impacts on drinking water resources in the United States.
We passed this information on to others by publishing 13 EPA technical reports and just as many articles in scientific journals.
The report does two important things—it outlines what the scientific evidence shows and underscores what we don’t know because of gaps in the data. While these data gaps limited EPA’s ability to fully assess the potential impacts to drinking water resources locally and nationally, they too can serve as an important guide to local communities considering hydraulic fracturing.
Most importantly it provides states, tribes, and communities around the country a critical resource they can use to identify how to better protect public health and our drinking water resources.
In the end, I believe the assessment truly reflects the current state of the science. It cites over 1,200 sources including published papers, technical reports, results from peer-reviewed Agency research, and information provided by industry, states, tribes, non-governmental organizations, and other interested members of the public.
States and industry can now add the scientific understanding gained through this assessment to many other resources—including engineering capability and technology—to ensure that hydraulic fracturing is conducted in a safe and responsible manner.
But there is a last point that should not be glossed over, and that is the strength of the scientific process. I can tell you from experience, good science takes time. It involves careful planning, requires rigorous attention to detail, and relies on feedback through scientific peer review. In this instance, the Agency’s independent Science Advisory Board provided rigorous peer review and numerous constructive comments.
The final assessment is a strong, clear representation of the science that exists on the relationship between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources.