WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) - 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.