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Hydraulic Fracturing Water Contamination Leads to California Lawsuit

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San Francisco, CAConcerns about hydraulic fracturing water contamination have led to environmental groups filing a lawsuit against the state of California, alleging regulators allow hydraulic fracking to occur in violation of California environmental laws. The lawsuit claims hydraulic fracturing contamination could affect groundwater and air quality.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle (10/16/12), the lawsuit was filed on behalf of five environmental groups, who allege the California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources allows fracking to occur without any environmental impact report, which would include a study of the effects of fracking on groundwater and air. This practice is in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act, the lawsuit claims. The California Environmental Quality Act requires people and organizations involved in major construction or infrastructure projects to detail the environmental effects of their proposed work and how they plan to lessen their environmental impact.

Environmental groups are concerned that contaminated drinking water has been linked to fracking (also called hydraulic fracturing). One study, conducted by Pennsylvania officials, found toxic metals linked to fracking in drinking water. According to The New York Times (11/02/12), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection only reported some of the toxic metals found in a well near a fracking site.

Documents that were part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven people who allege they were made sick by chemicals linked to fracking show the department tested for a variety of metals, but did not include copper, zinc and titanium, which can have an adverse effect on a person's health. A scientist involved in the study said the toxic chemicals were left off the report because they were not requested by the client.

The lawsuit alleges residents near the fracking site suffer from nausea, pain and difficulty breathing.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now undertaking a study to examine the effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and ground water. According to the EPA, a progress report will be issued in late 2012 with a full report to be released in 2014. The study will include an assessment of the effects of chemicals and surface spills, well injection, flowback, water acquisition and wastewater treatment on nearby drinking water and ground water.

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