Industrial Strength: How the U.S. Government Hid Fracking’s Risks to Drinking Water

Most mornings, when his 7-year-old son Ryan gets up for school at 6:55, Bryan Latkanich is still awake from the night before, looking online for another home in some part of Pennsylvania with good schools and good water.

Six years ago, Latkanich signed on to let an energy company tap natural gas beneath his property by pumping water, sand and chemicals into rock formations, a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Soon after, Latkanich’s well water got a metallic taste, he developed stomach problems, and his son one day emerged from a bath covered in bleeding sores. More recently, Ryan became incontinent.

Testing by state regulators and a researcher at nearby Duquesne University showed the well water had deteriorated since gas extraction started but no proof of the cause. The state recently began another round of testing.

Latkanich is a single parent. He’s jobless and blind in his right eye from brain surgery. “I worry about my son getting sick, about my getting sick and what would happen to him if I did,” he said. “I’m doing this all alone. And I keep asking myself, ‘How do we get out?'”

For Latkanich and all those who believe their water has been tainted by fracking, there are few remedies. Congress took away the most powerful one in 2005, prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from safeguarding drinking water that might be harmed by fracking and even denying the regulator the authority to find out what chemicals companies use. That provision of the Energy Policy Act was justified by an EPA study about fracking into coalbed methane reservoirs, completed under the George W. Bush administration, that concluded that fracking posed no risk to drinking water. 11-16-17

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