OKLAHOMA CITY - There have long been concerns in our state that wastewater injection by oil companies is the cause of all the earthquakes we’ve been experiencing in recent years.
Now, another concern is coming to the forefront – whether it could be contaminating our water.
One Oklahoma geologist said a recent Washington Post article raises serious questions.
“This mystery was solved: Scientists say chemicals from fracking wastewater can taint fresh water nearby,” the article declares.
Bob Jackman, an Oklahoma geologist, said he fears many wells will be abandoned due to the financial troubles of the oil and gas industry right now.
And, he said abandoned wells that are not properly maintained can leak.
“It is a massive problem and, as we go through this cycle of bankruptcies, it’s going to be a long-term problem,” Jackman said.
The US Geological Survey quoted in the article found contaminants in a creek downstream from a wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia.
Jackman said we need testing like that in our state.
“How is the state of Oklahoma addressing this problem? They’re not,” Jackman said.
But, the executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board said they do routinely test drinking water sources around the state.
“We have yet to find any contamination of our fresh water supply, both ground and surface water, as a result of oil and gas activity in Oklahoma,” said J.D. Strong.
Strong said a recently released nationwide Environmental Protection Agency study found very few examples of water contamination from wastewater disposal facilities.
“There are amazingly few examples of any site-specific instances of contamination to drinking water supplies from fracking activity,” Strong said.
However, Strong admits they don’t have the budget to test for everything.
The director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey also said it would be nice to be able to fund more studies.
Bu,t he said this latest study did not actually solve any big mystery.
“We’ve known this is a hazard for years, and we have regulations to handle it. If somebody’s not enforcing them, that is a problem,” said Dr. Jeremy Boak, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey.
A spokesperson for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission said they have numerous rules to keep the fracking process from harming drinking water supplies.
They will do site specific testing if a landowner wants it done or if they have a concern materials may have somehow gotten into protected water sources.