WASHINGTON Jan 26 The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency has set up a hotline to address public
concerns that water supplies may be endangered by a drilling
practice used to extract natural gas from rock formations, the
agency said on Tuesday.
The use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas
production has drawn fire from environmentalists and neighbors
of drilling operations who complain the method has contaminated
well water and made people sick.
"We wanted to make sure that we had a central point of
contact where these calls can come in and make sure they're
responded to and handled appropriately," said David Sternberg,
a spokesman in the EPA's Mid-Atlantic office.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into
rock formations at high pressure to make oil and natural gas
flow more freely. The practice is essential to tapping shale
gas, which has significantly boosted U.S. gas output.
The agency said citizens should call 1-877-919-4EPA if they
see any illegal disposal of wastes or other suspicious activity
by oil and natural gas producers.
Information collected from the hotline may also be "useful
in investigating industry practices," EPA said.
Hydraulic fracturing is excluded from federal regulation
under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but some lawmakers have
called for removing this exemption.
Major U.S. shale producers include Range Resources Corp
(RRC.N), Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N), and Anadarko Petroleum
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by David Gregorio)