The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a preliminary version of a plan to study the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.
Hydraulic fracturing, known as “fracking,” is a natural gas drilling technique that creates fragmentation in reservoir rock formations. Using pressurized water and chemicals, drillers bore deep underground to release gas or oil from rocks. Opponents of the process say that it contaminates ground water and poses serious health and environmental risks.
Responding to public outcry over the potential safety hazards, Congress enlisted the EPA to review the effects of fracking on water supplies. The agency is expected to release initial results of the study by the end of next year, Reuters reports.
The draft issued Tuesday outlined a plan to investigate reports of water contamination in three to five sites where drilling has already occurred.
The agency will also oversee two to three case studies to assess water quality before, during, and after the hydraulic fracturing process.
The draft will be up for public comment and review by the agency’s science advisory board on March 7 and 8.