Ever since the process of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—made its entrance to the oil industry, issues and problems surrounding the process have become a common occurrence. Fracking is the controversial process of horizontal drilling (see fig. 1), where millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are pumped deep into an oil well to extract natural gas from the earth’s crust (Ehrenberg 20). This practice has even been banned in some places (see fig. 1). The methane that comes out of the earth and the water used—called fracking fluid—has the potential to cause problems with local ground water supplies. Whether or not fracking is the cause of these problems, concern should be observed during the fracking process to reduce the chances of water contamination among residential areas.
While methane is not a rare contaminant in drinking water wells, the fracking process seems to allow more methane to seep into the wells. A study headed by Duke University’s Robert B. Jackson, a professor of Environmental Sciences, shows that in Pennsylvania, drinking water wells within one kilometer of fracking sites contain nearly six times more methane than in wells farther away (Banerjee). Methane, no matter where it is contained, is flammable, thereby posing a risk for explosion, which is not good for homes. Reports show that a fracking site in Dimock, Pennsylvania caused methane to leak into a water well, where it detonated, leading to even further contamination of other water wells and homes (Henheffer 30). The domino effect presented here raises fear in critics of fracking, who seek only to stop the process from happen-
ing. Jackson, who coauthored a study done about fracking and methane leaks, proposes four possibilities for methane’s transmission into water wells due to fracking: fissures created by the fracking process allow methane to travel to the surface; the well casings weaken, allowing methane to escape the well; new fracking wells could be intersecting with old oil wells; and cement between the well casings and the rock around the well does not properly form a seal, giving methane the chance to leak into underground water sources (Ehrenberg 20). Although some possibilities seem more likely to happen than others, each should be fully investigated. These investigations have been conducted for a long time, especially after a 1987 report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA) which claimed that fracking fluids from a well contaminated a drinking water well nearly six hundred feet away (“Hydrofracking”).
Another possible cause for alarm that shifts blame for water contamination towards fracking is the government. In 2011, a family in Pennsylvania came to an unprecedented settlement with a company actively fracking around their property that included “gag orders” on the children of the family, banning them from ever speaking about living near a fracking site. Later on, evidence was given that the fracking site...