The relationship between fracking and the onset of various health issues still remains a controversial issue, and there is substantial evidence on both sides of the debate. Often times, property owners living in close proximity to fracking activities may begin to complain of various health issues such as nausea, headaches, bloody noses, respiratory, and other breathing related problems. It is believed that such adverse environmental exposure originates from contaminated ground and drinking water, from polluted air, or from the close proximity of the fracking activity to the home. Fracking is best understood as “the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand, and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.”
A recent report by the EPA has concluded that fracking has contaminated drinking water. It concluded that fracking “led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells.” These conclusions by the EPA are the first real acknowledgement by the environmental agency that fracking can and does lend itself to water contamination. As a result, many property owners, when they determine that their drinking water and water wells have been contaminated, seek to assert claims for personal injury, health care claims, and medical monitoring. All of these personal injury claims are premised on the ability of the property owner to show that such health claims are causally related to the fracking activity.
Unfortunately, what is commonly unknown to many property owners is the significance of obtaining water quality testing of drinking water and wells before fracking activity occurs. This is important for a number of reasons. Without any water quality testing, a property owner faces an uphill battle in demonstrating a baseline by which certain contaminants are present within the drinking water. One article highlights that pre-drill water quality testing “enables oil and gas operators to establish baseline water-quality conditions prior to drilling, well completion, and production activities [and] pre-drill surveys can be used to document other important information such as the condition of on-site water sources, including water-well integrity or construction.” As such, the presence of such pre-drill water quality testing allows property owners to demonstrate contaminant levels prior to any fracking or drilling activity, and then to make such comparisons afterward, where the goal is to demonstrate that fracking significantly contributed to adversely harming the quality of the water. The strategy of the natural gas drilling companies in these type of situations is usually to deny any responsibility over tainted water by arguing that there are many contaminants that occur naturally in water. The presence of pre-drill water quality testing rebuts many of these arguments and provides very scientifically sound basis by which to assess the quality of water.