EPA Cares About Your Drinking Water. Your Air? Not So Much.
The natural gas drilling industry has sidestepped laws designed to protect human health for years, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally intervening in an attempt to cut back on water pollution incidents stemming from hydraulic fracturing, a process used to extract natural gas that involves injecting millions of gallons of water underground to fracture rock. For the first time, the EPA will begin regulating the process of treating wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations (fracking) at plants that also treat drinking water to protect the latter from potentially cancer-causing contaminants.
The EPA is targeting total dissolved solids (TDS), a term applied to all the organic and inorganic material found in water. One such material, bromide, can turn into a cancer-causing substance when mixed with chlorine, a common water-treatment chemical. As it stands, fracking wastewater is commonly taken to wastewater treatment plants that aren't equipped to filter out the 1,300-plus chemicals used in the drilling process.
The problem is, this step still won't adequately protect families from natural gas–related pollution. In addition to creating toxic water that some scientists say is impossible to fully treat, natural gas drilling processes also create toxic air pollution linked to asthma, certain cancers, and in some cases, irreversible brain damage.
Fracking, simplified: Check out this short video: