Zero Points For Originality

American Water Works Assoc. Paper Parrots Debunked Gasland Claims About Hydrofracturing

Founded in 1881, the Denver, CO-based American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) stated purpose, according to its site, is being for “the exchange of information pertaining to the management of water-works, for the mutual advancement of consumers and water companies, and for the purpose of securing economy and uniformity in the operations of water-works.”

How far AWWA’s come in those 130 years, though. A recently issued AWWA white paper titled “Hydrofracking: Is It Worth The Risk?” — written by Paul Easley, an ‘environmental manager’ for Fort Smith Utility in Arkansas — reads more like a manuscript from Gasland than an independent analysis. How does Mr. Easley’s claims stand in an Energy In Depth fact-check? We’re glad you asked.

AWWA Claims
A cocktail of an estimated 260 to more than 500 chemicals is used for natural gas fracking. … According to the drilling industry, hydrofracking works much better when chemicals such as diesel fuel, methanol, hydrochloric adic and formaldehyde are added to the mix. (AWWA study, 7/11) Fracturing fluids are made up of more a than 99.5 percent water and sand. The remaining materials, used to help deliver the water down the wellbore and position the sand in the tiny fractures created in the formation, are typically components found and used around the house. The most prominent of these, a substance known as guar gum, is an emulsifier morecommonly found in ice cream.U.S. Dept. of Energy / GWPC report: “Although the hydraulic fracturing industry may have a number of compounds that can be used in a hydraulic fracturing fluid, any single fracturing job would only use a few of the available additives [not 500!]. For example, in [this exhibit], there are 12 additives used, covering the range of possible functions that could be built into a fracturing fluid.” (page 62)
Most drilling companies are reluctant to disclose the exact mix and quantities of chemicals used in the process. (Ibid) The entire universe of additives used in the fracturing are available on the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection’s website and at, the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), recently, where natural gas producers are disclosing additives used in the hydraulic fracturing process on a well-by-well basis.PADEP: “Can drilling companies keep the names of chemicals used at drilling sites a secret?”

  • “No. Drilling companies must disclose the names of all chemicals to be stored and used at a drilling site in the Pollution Prevention and Contingency Plan that must be submitted to DEP as part of the permit application process.”
Because of the relatively new, widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, there’s a regulatory void in most states. (Ibid) Fmr. Gov. Ed Rendell, Fmr. PADEP Sec. John Hanger: As the two people who enacted four regulatory packages strengthening drilling regulation and led the enforcement of the rules in Pennsylvania until January, we strongly disagree that there is lax regulation and oversight of gas drilling there.  Pennsylvania has the strongest enforcement program of any state with gas drilling. (New York Times, 3/5/11)NOTE: See STRONGER reviews, confirming strong state regulation, of La.Pa.Oh.Okla., and others.
Hydrofracking has been linked to drinking water contamination and property damage in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and other states. (Ibid) US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson: “I’m not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.” (Congressional testimony,5/24/11)
In West Virginia, Drunkard Creek was used to dispose of gas well fluids. This disposal caused golden algae…to bloom, killing most of the creek’s aquatic life. (Ibid) Local PA newspaper: “One glaring error in the film [Gasland] is the suggestion that gas drilling led to the September fish kill at Dunkard Creek in Greene County. That was determined to have been caused by a golden algae bloom from mine drainage from a [mine] discharge.” (Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter, 6/5/10)
Near some hydrofracking sites in Colorado and Canada, people have set fire to gas contaminated water as it pours from their taps or bubbles up out of the earth. (Ibid) Colo. Regulator: Gasland incorrectly attributes several cases of water well contamination in Colorado to oil and gas development when our investigations determined that the wells in question contained biogenic methane that is not attributable to such development. (Gasland fact sheet)Colo. Regulator: “Dissolved methane in well water appears to be biogenic [naturally occurring] in origin. … There are no indications of oil & gas related impacts to water well.” (complaint resolved 9/30/08, signed by John Axelson of COGCC)
A water utility with groundwater or surface water supply and associated watersheds located in a shale-gas formation should be concerned about the potential effects natural gas drilling projects can have on its water supply. (Ibid) Pennsylvania American Water, one of Pa.’s largest water utilities: “No Detectable Levels of Radiological Contaminants or Volatile Organic Compounds Found at Intakes”

  • Following a full battery of tests at Pennsylvania American Water’s raw water intakes along the Allegheny, Clarion and Monongahela Rivers and Two Lick Creek, in Indiana, PA, the company found no elevated or harmful levels of radiological contaminants, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or inorganic compounds (IOCs). The results confirmed that the quality of the water supplied by Pennsylvania American Water’s treatment plants has not been impacted by radioactive materials, VOCs or IOCs from Marcellus Shale drilling wastewater. (Release, 5/16/11)
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