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EPA implicates fracking in groundwater pollution

This May 22, 2009 Associated Press photo shows John Fenton, a farmer who lives near Pavillion in central Wyoming, near a tank used in natural gas extraction, in background. Fenton and some of his neighbors blame hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a common technique used in drilling new oil and gas wells, for fouling their well water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday in Wyoming, for the first time that fracking may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution. The EPA also em...

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the first time has implicated fracking -- a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells -- for causing groundwater pollution.

The finding could have a chilling effect in states trying to determine how to regulate the controversial process.

The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas.

The EPA announced today that it found compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals in the groundwater beneath a Wyoming community where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.

Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.

The EPA announcement has major implications for a vast increase in gas drilling in the U.S. in recent years. Fracking has played a large role in opening up many reserves.

The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater.