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Contamination by infectious agents or chemicals can

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Contamination by infectious agents or chemicals can cause mild to severe illness. Protecting water sources and minimizing exposure to contaminated water sources are important parts of environmental health. As a result of recent technological innovations improving the ability to extract oil and natural gas from shale and other rock formations, the popularity of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has surged, leading to new investment opportunities and positive growth for the domestic gas and oil production industry. With the expansion, however, has come risk and scrutiny. To help quantify and qualify those potential risks, and in response to escalating public concern, Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to conduct a study into the potential impacts of fracking on drinking and ground water. A first report of results is expected by the end of 2012, with a final report to be released in 2014. Although the evolving industry offers many potential benefits, there are a number of environmental issues leading to increased federal and state regulation of the industry. There is considerable concern that fracking can lead to contamination of groundwater as a result of spills, faulty well construction, or other means, including disposal into underground injection wells. In 2010, residents of Pavillion, Wyoming complained about the condition of their well water. In December 2011, EPA released a report finding that compounds associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath the community and health officials advised residents not to drink the water. EPA did emphasize, however, that its findings are specific to the area due to the fact the fracking activities in Pavillion occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells, unlike other locations where drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that would normally be used. In January 2012, EPA began testing water supplies for 61 homes in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and provided replacement drinking water supplies to four homes where water tests raised health concerns. Both the state Department of Environmental Protection and the driller
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