CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- 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 Thursday 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.