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Let’s Be Realistic About Fracking and Water

Millions of dollars have been spent to make sure that you’ve heard drilling and fracking never contaminate water. An analysis of Colorado spill data for 2013, once again, disproves the claim.


Truth be told, drilling and fracking spills contaminate water all the time.


A review of publicly available data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) finds that oil and gas companies have averaged more than one spill per day since the new year—328 to be exact.


Of these, 77 contaminated water.


Oil and gas companies say water has NEVER been contaminated by fracking. The data shows that in a nine-month period there have been 77 instances of water contamination from drilling, fracking and associated operations.


Surface and Groundwater Contaminated

A total of 29 spills—or nine percent of all spills—contaminated surface waters. Over half of all spills reported in 2013 occurred 1,500 feet or less from surface water and 27 percent occurred less than 500 feet from surface water. At the same time, 50 spills contaminated groundwater, with 32 percent of spills since the beginning of 2013 occurring less than 50 feet from the shallowest groundwater.


Distance spill occurred from surface water:

Number of spills

Percentage of total spills

Less than 500 ft.



Between 500 and 1,000 ft.



Between 1,000 and 5,000 ft.



More than 5,000 ft.



Distance not reported





Distance spill occurred from shallowest groundwater:

Number of spills

Percentage of total spills

Less than 50 ft.



Between 50 and 100 ft.



Between 100 and 500 ft.



More than 500 ft.



Distance not reported




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