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Carcinogens injected into wells, Democrats say

Published April 17, 2011 | LA Times

Washington - Millions of gallons of potentially hazardous chemicals and known carcinogens were injected into wells by leading oil and gas service companies from 2005 to 2009, a report by three House Democrats said Saturday.

The report said 29 of the chemicals were known or suspected human carcinogens. They were either regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act as risks to human health or listed as hazardous air pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Methanol was the most widely used chemical. The substance is a hazardous air pollutant and is on the candidate list for potential regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The report was issued by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).

The chemicals are injected during hydraulic fracturing, a process used in combination with horizontal drilling to allow access to natural gas reserves previously considered uneconomical. The growing use of hydraulic fracturing has allowed natural gas production in the United States to reach levels not achieved since the early 1970s.

However, the process requires large quantities of water and fluids, injected underground at high volumes and pressure. The composition of these fluids ranges from a simple mixture of water and sand to more complex mixtures with chemical additives.

The report said that from 2005 to 2009, the following states had at least 100,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids containing a carcinogen: Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Wyoming, North Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and Utah.

States with 100,000 gallons or more of fluids containing a regulated chemical under the Safe Drinking Water Act were Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Mississippi and North Dakota. The report said many chemical components were listed as "proprietary" or "trade secret."

Source: LA Times
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