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Environmental effects of fracking unclear

By Narelle Towie

CSIRO scientists have highlighted concerns that chemicals produced by hydraulic fracturing could be affecting ground and surface waters.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

In a review published in CSIRO’s online Environmental Chemistry journal, researchers say fracking may be unlocking pollutants currently trapped safely in the ground and mixing them with substances injected by mining operations.

Review author and CSIRO chief research scientist Dr Graeme Batley says there is very little understanding of the chemical concentrations or what happens to them over time.

“To date there have been relatively few publications in the open scientific literature dealing with the environmental impacts of coal seam gas production and especially of fracking as well as geogenic [naturally occurring] contaminants, with most information contained in confidential reports to the service companies,” the review says.

“Although the industry is adapting where possible to more benign fracking chemicals there is still a lack of information on exposure to natural and added chemicals, and their fate and ecotoxicity in both the discharged produced and flow-back waters.”

Petrochemcials such as benzene, and naturally occurring metals and radioactive materials have been found in water produced as a result of fracking, according to the review.

“Geogenic contaminants mobilised from the coal seams during fracking may add to the mixture of chemicals with the potential to affect both ground and surface water quality,” Dr Batley states....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Science Network WA