Fracking away our aquifers? The EPA is allowing oil companies to inject drilling and fracking waste into drinking water aquifers below Northern Colorado. The water is far too deep to be used today – but water experts say that might not always be the case by Bobby Magill, December 28, 2012, Coloradoan.com
The law requires applicants for the exemptions to prove that aquifers can’t be used for drinking because the water is so deep underground that it’s too expensive or too impractical to ever be tapped. But Colorado water experts say you can never say never. State water planners say it’s possible — but extremely expensive — to reach that drinking water today, but they warn that they can’t discount the possibility the water will become scarce and valuable enough here that Colorado may one day need to look for it deep underground. A ProPublica investigation showed that the EPA has not kept track of how many aquifer exemptions have been issued nationwide, and records the agency provided ProPublica showed that many were issued in conflict with the EPA’s requirement to protect water that could be used for drinking. ProPublica found that about 1,100 aquifer exemptions have been approved by the EPA’s Underground Injection Control Program in its Rocky Mountain regional office in Denver.
The Coloradoan requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act copies of all approval notices for aquifer exemptions the EPA has granted since Jan. 1, 2000, for an area including Denver, Weld, Adams, Boulder and Larimer counties. The EPA released six aquifer exemption notices for that area. In most cases, the EPA granted companies permission to pollute drinking water aquifers saying that they are not “reasonably expected” to be used for drinking water because they are too deep and too expensive to tap, making such an operation “technically impractical.” “Exempted aquifers do not take any practical source of drinking water out of supply; they were exempted because they were impractical for water quality, access, treatment and economic reasons,” Colorado Oil and Gas Association President Tisha Schuller said. … Today, one of the only resources valuable enough to pump from such depths is oil. Think of it this way: The energy industry extracts oil from 7,000 feet or so beneath the surface, but each barrel is currently worth about $91. A barrel of water might be worth 80 cents, Waskom said, making the effort economically impractical. … But Colorado may be forced to look deep underground for new water sources as shallower aquifers are depleted and water becomes more scarce as the climate changes, said Mark Williams, a hydrologist at the University of Colorado-Boulder. … “We will not have that water to use in the future,” [Emphasis added]