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Clean Water for North Carolina is turning thirty this year! Click here to donate in honor of our anniversary and learn how to celebrate with us. Clean Water for North Carolina is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Upcoming Events

See calendar for more event details

Sept. 21, 9AM-4PM, Stream Monitoring Volunteer Training. Haywood County. RSVP/more info: For info or RSVP:

Sept 21, 11:30 AM, Peoples Climate March. New York City. Learn more. Buses leave from Asheville, the Triangle, and Charlotte.

Sept. 21, 1PM~3PM, Climate March Solidarity Rally, Asheville. Vance Monument downtown. Contact Sherry Vaughn, 828-808-2482,

Fracking Rules: Water Supplies and Wastewater Management

Comment on these rules directly to the MEC, at one of the upcoming Public Hearings on Fracking Rules. More info here.

Sanford: Aug. 22, Rockingham Co.: Aug. 25, Cullowhee/Western NC: Sept 12

Wastewater Management
After a well is “fracked,” millions of gallons of water come back to the surface, contaminated with chemicals added to frack fluids, as well as naturally occurring contaminants like salts, radioactive materials, and metals.

Bird in open pit

Birds and other wildlife can be attracted to standing water in open pits of toxic fracking wastewater.

The draft rules allow storage of this toxic wastewater in open pits, which release toxic air pollutants, are prone to flooding, can leak to surface or groundwater, and present a hazard to wildlife! The state should follow the lead of other states that require storage of waste in enclosed tanks, not open pits. The draft rules only require waste to be stored in tanks after a pit fails, leaking to nearby soil and groundwater – an approach that does the opposite of protecting the nearby environment!

What will we do with wastewater once it’s moved off site? Your local wastewater treatment plant is not equipped to handle this soup of chemicals, nor are there specialized facilities here to handle it. We don’t even have water quality standards for the many fracking pollutants that could soon be discharged into NC lakes and streams! The final rules should force driller to identify a disposal facility that is already up and running reliably before any fracking begins. NC’s rivers, streams, farmland and groundwater are too precious to become irreversibly contaminated with fracking wastewater. Click here for a factsheet on the rules on “Exploration and Production Waste Management.”

Water Use

All this fracking water has to come from somewhere. Withdrawing huge volumes of freshwater strains local water supplies. The population of North Carolina’s piedmont between Raleigh and Charlotte is large and increasing more quickly than any other part of the state, yet this is also where most shale gas drilling is likely to occur. We need stricter restrictions on the oil and gas industry to make sure plentiful clean water is available to our growing population for drinking, farming, and many other uses at businesses and homes.

The draft rules would let gas companies withdraw nearly unlimited amounts of freshwater, just requiring them to report where it’s coming from and monitor daily usage. Withdrawals would only be prohibited in extreme dry spells, but by that time others might already be affected! Because fracking operations could have a cumulative effect, the rules should also require records of total water withdrawals at multiple locations across local areas, so communities can plan for the collective impacts on water quantity. Click here for a factsheet on the “Water Acquisition and Management” section of the rules.

Fracking Rules: Chemical Disclosure and Baseline Testing

Comment on these rules directly to the MEC, at one of the upcoming Public Hearings on Fracking Rules.  More info here.

Raleigh: Aug. 20, Sanford: Aug. 22, Rockingham Co.: Aug. 25, Cullowhee/Western NC: Sept 12 

Chemical Disclosure and Trade Secrets (see pages 31-34 and 132-136 of Draft Rules)

Imagine a fracking well next to your property has a leaking hydraulic line that ignites on hot equipment, causing an explosion and fire that sends chemical fumes into the air. The fire department arrives and sprays thousands of gallons of water to extinguish the fire, sending runoff into both the stream down the hill and the ground uphill of your water well. You, your neighbors, workers on the well site, and the first responders are concerned about the chemicals you may have inhaled and there are dead fish washed ashore downstream, but you have no way of knowing what chemicals were involved because the corporation operating the gas well has applied to treat them as Trade Secrets. In fact, the scenario described here really that happened in Clarington, Ohio in late June. It took two critical days before the Ohio Department of Natural Resources took steps to disclose the proprietary chemicals used at the site.

As written, the NC draft rules allow the list of chemicals used in fracking to be held by the company owning the well and the State Geologist as undisclosed Trade Secrets. They would only be required to share the list of Trade Secret chemicals and formulations with healthcare providers or emergency responders , Injured parties and their families may never know what they were exposed to, and delay or confuse the response to contaminated water sources. Once healthcare providers or emergency personnel receive that information, the rules make the disclosure of that information to anyone, including the patient or well owner, a misdemeanor offense with state enforcement, and with the industry having the right to sue “without limitation.”

North Carolinians should not accept these terms. Full disclosure of chemicals used on site,  without Trade Secret protections, is the right thing to do. Gas and Oil development is not like manufacturing that takes place in a closed system—chemicals are stored with minimal protections on site and are deliberately and accidentally released to the subsurface, air and water, all part of the public’s environment. The risk to our health and the environment is too great. Residents near fracking sites and transportation routes must also be granted the right to challenge Trade Secrets.


Baseline Water Supply Testing (see pages 137-144 of Draft Rules)

                 Do you get your water from a private well? What if the water from your well became unusable for drinking, bathing, cooking, watering your plants, feeding your pets? You suspect fracking or other gas development activities caused the contamination, but you can’t prove it because the previous owner of your home didn’t want their well baseline tested, it’s been years since production ended at the well site, and the chemicals probably took several years to migrate to your water well.

An earlier version of the draft rules included “presumptive liability” for the gas operator for any contamination within 5,000 feet of the well. Following passage of Senate Bill 786, the area around a gas well in which the industry is required to test water wells has been reduced by over 72%, a radius of 2,640 feet, less than the distance in which elevated shale methane levels were found in PA and NY water wells. SB 785 does require “presumptive liability” of the industry within this radius, only escaping that liability if the water well owner refused baseline testing. The wording in the current draft rule, however, says that replacement water supply will only be provided by the industry if a requested “investigation and analytical results indicate the water supply was contaminated by activities of the permittee.” This appears to put the burden on the owner of the water well to prove the gas operator caused contamination, very different from “presumed liability.”

After gas well production is complete, the draft rules require only one test of water supply wells 30 days later, too soon  to detect slower moving contamination. Several years of additional annual water supply testing must be required to protect well owners.

Fracking Rules on Setback Distances and Enforcement Won't Protect Us

Comment on these rules directly to the MEC, at one of the upcoming Public Hearings on Fracking Rules.  More info here.

Raleigh: Aug. 20, Sanford: Aug. 22, Rockingham Co.: Aug. 25, Cullowhee/Western NC: Sept 12 

How far should fracking wells be from occupied buildings, including homes and schools? What about drinking water wells? Or our rivers and streams? The rules on “setback distances” are supposed to protect people and resources. But the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC)’s drafted rules on setback distances are far less than science would call for, despite the MEC promising us the “best protections in the country”.

Health studies have indicated that potential exposure to toxic air emissions can happen over 4,500 feet from gas wells; yet wells can be as close as 650 feet to occupied buildings!  Fracking presents a danger to drinking water supplies, and setback distances should be at the very minimum 1,000 feet from private water wells and 1,500 feet from public water supply wells. Proposed setback distances are only 200 feet from surface waters. Longer setbacks are a no-brainer to protect NC’s people and drinking water from accidents and pollution. To see more specific comments on the weakness of the currently drafted setback distances, click here.

The Mining and Energy Commission has drafted over 120 rules to regulate the fracking industry. But if these rules are not properly enforced, and the fracking sites are not thoroughly inspected, these rules are meaningless. One weakness of the draft rules is that it requires inspections of fracking sites to be announced beforehand, when clearly unannounced inspections would be able to catch problems that the driller wouldn’t have had time to cover up.

The rules only call for records to be kept for 5 years, when groundwater contamination could take much longer to appear. Most blatantly, the MEC’s draft rules allow for a wide range of exemptions or variances to many of their requirements, as long as the industry has made a “good faith effort” to comply. This is completely unacceptable. What is the point of making rules to protect the public and the environment, when the oil and gas industry—historically self-serving and profit driven—can easily get away with not complying? Variances to rules should be very rare, and only issued once there is substantial proof that the public can still be protected.  There should also be minimum penalties specified for violations, otherwise companies will have less incentive to comply with the rules. To see more weaknesses in the MEC’s draft rules on enforcement, click here.

Well Testing Information for NC Counties Most Likely to be Affected By Fracking

By Eleanor Kern, CWFNC Duke Stanback Intern 2014

The passage of Senate Bill 786, the “Energy Modernization Act”, has landowners in almost 30 counties across NC asking what the next step is in protecting their water and health from being impacted by gas drilling, fracking and treatment. With fracking possibly coming to North Carolina as early as spring of 2015, residents’ first step to protect themselves can be in the form of “baseline” testing of their drinking water wells before any drilling begins. While doing this is not free for the homeowner, it is important to have proof, from certified well water tests, that their drinking water was free of compounds associated with gas development before fracking begins. Clean Water for North Carolina began the summer with a project to help North Carolina residents get good information about affordable and certified testing of their water resources before fracking starts in their region.

When deciding what substances would be most important for residents to test for, many alternatives were researched. Organizations and private laboratories that were found to provide testing services included Shale Test, a TX based non-profit, as well as some for-profit analytical laboratories: Pace Laboratories, Enco Laboratories, and SGS North America. They test for a wide range of chemicals, but were expensive. The cheapest alternative was found to be testing arranged with the residents’ own county health departments, since they offer testing “ inorganic”, “petroleum”, and “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) , which give a good indication if the water has been polluted by hydraulic fracturing or other human practices.

The Environmental Health Departments of most NC counties provide the above three tests for between $100 and $200, but there was a wide range of values. The cheapest county price for the tests was found to be $50 for Northampton County and the most expensive price was for Alexander County with $560, representing a range of administrative costs added by the county. The complete table of well testing info for all NC counties can be viewed here. The completed table was sent to all of the counties’ Environmental Health Directors, hoping that it will shed some light on the differences in programs. A table including only the counties most likely to be directly affected by gas development can be viewed here. Commercial labs where you can purchase dissolved methane in water tests are included here.

Maps of all geological formations in North Carolina that may contain natural gas can be viewed so you can see if your county could be directly affected. We hope that you find this information useful and if you have any questions please e-mail or