Read the full article by Kristina Marusic (Environmental Health News)

“PITTSBURGH — Waste from fracking wells that used PFAS – commonly known as ‘forever chemicals’– has been dumped at dozens of sites across Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia — all of which could face contamination of soil, groundwater and drinking water as a result.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) have been used in hydraulic fracturing and other types of oil and gas wells across the U.S. for at least a decade.

Exposure to the chemicals, which are also used to make various consumer products nonstick and waterproof, is linked to health problems including kidney and testicular cancer, liver and thyroid problems, reproductive problems, lowered vaccine efficacy in children and increased risk of birth defects, among others.

Regulatory loopholes and a lack of transparency make it impossible to know how extensively the chemicals have been used in oil and gas production. In August, however, Environmental Health News (EHN), documented the first case of private drinking water contaminated with PFAS potentially linked to fracking wells, and in October EHN mapped the eight locations where operators have publicly disclosed the kind of PFAS they used in Pennsylvania fracking wells.

Now, a new map developed for EHN by FracTracker using public data reveals that waste generated at the eight Pennsylvania fracking wells with documented PFAS use has traveled to at least 97 additional sites for reuse and disposal.

Those eight wells generated more than 23 million gallons of liquid waste and 30,390 tons of solid waste between 2012 and 2022 so far.

‘It’s unique that we’re able to trace this in Pennsylvania,’ Matt Kelso, a manager of data & technology at FracTracker, who developed the map, told EHN. ‘Other states may tell you a little about the waste generated at well pads, but most don’t publicly report where it goes.’

Experts say many of these secondary disposal sites are also likely to be contaminated by PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), commonly known as Teflon, which is one of more than 9,000 PFAS, and was reported as being used at all eight wells.

PFAS like PTFE (Teflon) are extremely water-repellent and are sometimes used in fracking fluid to make the chemical mixture more stable and to more efficiently flush oil and gas out of the ground at high pressure. There’s also evidence that the chemicals are used during initial drilling and other phases of oil and gas extraction, but companies aren’t required to disclose them, so there’s no way of knowing how widespread the practice is.

‘If there were PFAS in any of those waste products, it’s likely that it would have gotten into the environment in some of those locations,’ Robert Delaney, a retired geologist and Superfund specialist who spent 30 years working for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (now called the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy), told EHN. Delaney was among the first to raise the alarm about widespread PFAS contamination in Michigan and spent more than a decade providing technical guidance to state and national groups addressing PFAS contamination.

‘The odds are that just as there were spills at the well pads, there have been spills and leaks at these disposal sites,’ Delaney said. ‘All these places that accepted the waste didn’t know that they were dealing with PFAS. And the things you do to treat other chemicals doesn’t work on them…these chemicals never go away.'” …