Is fracking connected to burning tap water?

Fracking does not cause burning tap water.

The burning tap water scenes in Gasland and Gasland II have stoked fears about the potential dangers of fracking. These scenes are sensational, frightening and easily burned into one’s false impression of fracking. Unfortunately, this is difficult to extinguish, so to speak.

The fact is that the State of Colorado investigated these scenes and found no connection between oil and natural gas drilling – including fracking or hydraulic fracturing – and reports of tap water catching on fire. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which regulates the development and production of all oil and natural gas resources in the state of Colorado, found that, “contamination is not present or that the methane comes from biogenic sources and is not attributable to oil and gas production” and that, “Gasland incorrectly attributes several cases of water well contamination in Colorado to oil and gas development.”

Gasland incorrectly attributes several cases of water well contamination in Colorado to oil and gas development.

—Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (2010)

Colorado State University scientists also reported that, “there’s no evidence of water-based contaminants seeping into drinking water wells atop a vast oil and gas field in northeastern Colorado.”

There’s no evidence of water-based contaminants seeping into drinking water wells atop a vast oil and gas field in northeastern Colorado.

—Colorado State University (2015)

In another case, a flaming garden-hose scene came under scrutiny when a Texas judge exposed the footage as staged and hoax. The court found that the landowner “under the advice or direction” of an environmental activist, “intentionally attached a garden hose to a gas vent – not a water line” and lit its contents on fire. The court concluded that the footage used, “was not done for scientific study but to provide local and national news media a deceptive video, calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning.” 

Here are the facts: methane gas occurs naturally in groundwater in sedimentary basins in Colorado and around the world, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). Some towns like Burning Springs, West Virginia were given their name hundreds of years ago because water sources could be lit on fire due to naturally occurring methane bubbling up into their streams. According to researchers in Colorado, “[methane] also is found in large quantities in the basin from naturally occurring, biogenic sources.”

Does fracking cause burning tap water? Again, the answer is no.

 

Protecting Colorado’s groundwater

Studies show fracking is safe

UT Arlington: Fracking doesn’t affect groundwater