Study: Water Quality Unaffected by Fracking

Published May 11, 2016

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) recently concluded a three-year study that found no side effects of hydraulic fracturing on water quality and no evidence the fracking process is causing methane to leak into wells in the observed area.

The study examined 191 water samples taken from 23 wells from 2012 to 2015 in five Ohio counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, and Stark.

“The good news is that our study did not document that fracking was directly linked to water contamination,” said Amy Townsend-Small, according to a report by the Ohio Times Reporter.

“Some of our highest observed methane concentrations were not near a fracking well at all,” said Townsend-Small.

The UC study’s results were consistent with the findings of a comprehensive survey of academic literature on fracking conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA survey, released in June 2015, found little evidence of water pollution resulting from fracking. 

Funders Displeased with Findings

The UC research team has received criticism from fracking supporters and environmental activist groups that provided funding for the study. At a meeting of the Carroll Concerned Citizens, where the study was released, Townsend-Small indicated the researchers had received pressure from some of the groups funding the study.

“I’m really sad to say this, but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results,” Townsend-Small said at the meeting. “They feel that fracking is scary, and so they were hoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.”

Jeff Stier, the director of the Risk Analysis division at the National Center for Public Policy Research, authored an article in Newsweek criticizing the researchers for not spending a sufficient amount of time publicizing the study’s results. Stier says the researchers didn’t want to displease anti-fossil-fuel activists and that they had put “politics before science.”

“The critics of fracking said let’s fund our own study to prove how dangerous it is,” Stier told Environment & Climate News. “Then, they were embarrassed they’re own study verified the safety of fracking.” 

Michael McGrady ([email protected]writes from Colorado Springs, Colorado.


United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Assessment of the Potential Impacts of Hydraulic Fracturing for Oil and Gas on Drinking Water Resources,” June 5, 2015;