Study links fracking fluid, health problem
A new study from the University of Missouri that used Garfield County as its primary testing ground links chemicals tied to natural gas drilling activities with endocrine system disruptions in the human body.
The study, released Monday, found that both surface and groundwater samples taken from test sites in Garfield County that had “known natural gas drilling incidents,” such as spills of hydraulic fracturing fluids, had greater levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) than samples taken in areas devoid of drilling.
Water samples were taken in September 2010 from ground and surface sources, including the Colorado River, in five sites with between 43 and 136 natural gas wells within one mile, and where a spill or other reported incident had been reported within six years.
Reference samples were taken from other areas in the county that have little drilling, and from nondrilling areas in Missouri for comparison.
The report concludes that most water samples from sites with known drilling-related incidents in the region exhibited more chemicals known to impact human sex hormone activity than the water samples collected from the other control sites.
The study measured 12 chemicals used in drilling operations, included those associated with hydraulic fracturing, a process involving the mixture of sand, water and chemicals to release natural gas from deep in the ground.
The findings “suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated EDC activity in ground and surface water,” the researchers wrote in the report.
David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, pointed to the limitations identified in the study itself, including “that no identification of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing were in the tested water.”
That’s “hugely important for context,” Ludlam said.
Ludlam also noted the study’s link to Paonia’s Theo Colborn — “one of the nation’s most renowned anti-drilling activists,” which he said “leaves wide space for questioning the project’s claims and conclusions.”
Colborn acknowledged a connection to one of the principals behind the study, but she said she was not directly involved with it.