The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun issuing warnings about the possibility of the presence of chemicals in the water used in hydraulic fracturing, the process of extracting natural gas from shale formations in the United States.
The agency says there are at least 14 chemicals that are suspected of being present in water in wells near the Marcellus shale formation in West Virginia.
It is not yet clear what the chemicals might be, but the agency is taking steps to test water samples for the chemicals.
EPA spokesman Joe Frolich said the agency has not yet determined if any of the chemicals are harmful.
“We’re working with the local and state health departments to determine if any health risks are present,” Frolch said.
EPA also issued a warning about the possible presence of methane in water at an energy development site in Virginia.
The company says the methane can be found in wastewater and groundwater.
“EPA is investigating and is monitoring the water supply to the Marjorie Merck property in the vicinity,” said the company in a statement.
The EPA is also asking local officials in West Chester, Ohio, to take steps to limit methane production in their water supply.
The site was a primary producer of natural gas for several years before it shut down last year, and it also produced methane.
EPA is taking actions to limit the use of natural methane at a number of oil and gas production sites, Frolichi said.
“The EPA is making it a priority to protect the health of our environment and the communities we serve,” he said.
The American Water Works Association, a nonprofit that represents water utilities in the country, has been pushing the EPA to issue more detailed guidelines for how to manage natural gas in its wastewater treatment plants.
“There’s not much that we can do to stop it from happening,” said Mike Littman, president of the American Waterworks Association.
The Associated Press