Contamination of Natural Water Sources in Natural Gas Drilling-Dense Regions

EPA Grant Number: FP917471
Title: Contamination of Natural Water Sources in Natural Gas Drilling-Dense Regions
Investigators: Kassotis, Christopher Dennis
Institution: University of Missouri - Columbia
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2012 through July 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Biological Sciences


Because hydraulic fracturing has been linked to local contamination of water supplies, this study seeks to develop a better understanding of this contamination and its potential impacts on the environment. This research aims to determine the relationship between various hormonal activities in natural sources of water with hydraulic fracturing processes and then to determine which chemicals specifically are causing this hormonal activity. Once established, this research aims to assess potential health implications to humans and wildlife from exposure to these chemicals based on in vivo experiments in the laboratory.


To further establish the link between hydraulic fracturing operations and contamination of natural water supplies, this study will sample water in drilling-dense and drilling-sparse regions and both before and after drilling has taken place within specific regions. To identify samples with hormonal activity, water samples will be subjected to solid phase extraction, and concentrated samples will be used in hormone response reporter gene assays. Samples with hormonal activity will be fractionated and specific chemicals identified. Lastly, to begin to answer the question of potential health implications of these chemicals entering natural sources of water, an animal study will be performed to look at specific health endpoints that may be seen in humans.

Expected Results:

The specific interests are in understanding how environmentally relevant mixtures of endocrine disrupting chemicals impact human and environmental health. This project aims to look at the chemicals used in liberating natural gas that may be introducing multiple endocrine disruptors into natural sources of water. As there have been more than 1,000 reported cases of contamination related to hydraulic fracturing, it is clear that these chemicals are entering natural water sources and will expose humans and wildlife to complex mixtures of endocrine disruptors. This research should serve to identify those chemicals, replicate those mixtures in a controlled laboratory setting, and examine dose-related responses of the mixtures both in vitro and in vivo to assess the potential for impacts on human and environmental health. The results of this research will increase understanding of the potential hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing and provide a basis for regulatory agencies to develop science-based standards of safety and containment of waste from hydraulic fracturing processes.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Establishing hormonal activity of samples to build a picture of environmental impact and potential threats to human health is crucial to supplement regulatory decision making and to further research that will examine the potential threats to human health related to exposure by specific chemicals that are identified. The key outcome to this is the establishment of a sustainable practice with minimal impact on human and environmental health. Although hydraulic fracturing processes already have a positive economic impact on regions throughout the country, the overarching goal for this research is to create a balance between this benefit and a safe-, health- and ecosystem-conscious approach to the issue.

Supplemental Keywords:

endocrine disrupting chemicals, hydraulic fracturing, water contamination

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final