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Boom in gas drilling fuels contamination concerns in Colorado

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“We now use five to 10 ‘frac’ jobs per well, with up to 100 million gallons of fluid used per frac,” says geologist Geoffrey Thyne of the University of Wyoming, whose analysis of the large gas fields around Divide Creek found elevated methane and chloride levels in groundwater samples.

“They are injecting fluid that may or may not be hazardous into thousands of wells and not recovering all of it. We have to ask, what is in those fluids and where does the fluid go?” says Mr. Thyne.

Theo Colborn, a leading researcher on the effects of toxins on the human endocrine system, has been trying to glean what is in the injection fluid.

Preliminary results of her study identify 65 chemicals that are probable components. She is urging that groundwater sampling be expanded to determine whether these chemicals or their byproducts are showing up in areas where hydraulic fracturing is being used.

“We know less and less about what chemicals are being used, but the ones that we do know are being used are very dangerous,” says Dr. Colborn.

Chemicals such as benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols were used in the fracturing fluids, her study found – all of which have been linked in previous research to health disorders when human exposure is too high.

Pushing for legislation
Colborn’s work and complaints from residents living near drilling operations are spurring policymakers to take a closer look at hydraulic fracturing. US Reps. Diana DeGette (D) and John Salazar (D), both of Colorado, have introduced legislation that would repeal the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for hydraulic fracturing and force energy companies to reveal the contents of the fracturing fluids.

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