Fracking companies like to say that there’s never been a single case of fracking contaminating a water well. But, well, there has, and they’ve known that for over 20 years. An EPA report released in 1987 said that a tainted well in West Virginia was contaminated by fracking.
The report details how fracking fluids or gels migrated from the fracking well to an active water well on a neighboring property, rendering it unusable. The fracking fluid may have travelled through other, capped wells to the active water well. Even back in the 1980s, the industry was calling this incident an "accident or malfunction of the fracturing process" — a one-off, basically. But the report also lists other, similar incidents, though investigators couldn’t get the details because of lawsuit settlements.
More than 25 years after the 1984 incident, fracking companies are still arguing that if any water contamination events were to exist — which, according to the industry, they don't — they'd be accidents or aberrations, not regular occurrences. The EPA is in the midst of researching a new report on fracking. Whether the agency comes down on the side of the industry, as it did in its latest report, or reports that contamination could be a problem, as it did in 1980s, will help determine fracking's fate.