On July 9, 2012, the National Academy of Sciences ("NAS") released a study that found no direct link between hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and contamination of certain shallow groundwater aquifers in northwestern Pennsylvania. The NAS study acknowledged the existence of pathways between the deeper formations (where fracking occurs) and the shallow drinking water aquifers. However, the study found that these pathways existed prior to any drilling activities having taken place in the area. The study further acknowledged that although contamination (brine) has been identified in these shallow zone aquifers and that the contamination may be the result of migration from the deeper formations, the contamination did not correlate with the locations of existing shale-gas wells. Furthermore, the current data is consistent with reported groundwater data collected prior to shale-gas exploration activities having occurred, leading the authors of the study to conclude that the contamination was naturally occurring (as opposed to having been caused by the fracking operations). The study did acknowledge, however, the possibility that these pre-existing pathways could provide a conduit for contamination from fracking operations to contaminate shallow zone aquifers and recommended further evaluation of these pathways. To see a copy of the study, please click here.