As hundreds of thousands of West Virginians faced a third day without drinking water due to a chemical spill in a local river, a crisis for which President Obama declared a federal emergency, a water company executive said Saturday that it could take days to determine whether the water is safe again.
Mexico City plans to draw drinking water from a mile-deep aquifer. The effort challenges a key tenet of U.S. clean water policy: Water far underground can be intentionally polluted because it will never be used.
Injection wells have proliferated over the past 60 years, in large part because they are the cheapest, most expedient way to manage hundreds of billions of gallons of industrial waste generated in the U.S. each year. Yet the dangers of injection are well known: In accidents dating to the 1960s, toxic materials have bubbled up to the surface or escaped, contaminating aquifers that store supplies of drinking water.
A study into the safety of gas drilling in New York state’s Marcellus Shale concludes that natural faults and fractures, exacerbated by the effects of fracking, could allow chemicals to reach the surface and contaminate drinking water supplies much sooner than experts previously predicted.