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Kalkaska Co. fracking wells used 42M gallons water

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EXCELSIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Three deep hydraulic fracturing wells in northwestern lower Michigan's Kalkaska County have used 42 million gallons of water in the past two years, according to a published report.

The water use figures for the hydraulic fracturing operations were based on public documents and interviews, the Traverse City Record-Eagle (http://bit.ly/YqzcbM ) said.

The process, also known as fracking, uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack open rock formations and release oil and gas.

The wells are run by Encana Oil & Gas wells in Excelsior Township, about 25 miles east of Traverse City. Some environmental groups and county residents have expressed concern about the water use.

"They are gigantic water consumers, and there are enormous wells," said Paul Brady, who lives a few miles away. "I'm concerned about the water, just like everyone else should be."

Frac Focus, a nonprofit group created by industry and environmentalists to provide factual information on hydraulic fracturing activity, has a website that allows energy companies to publicly document details about their wells, including water usage. It shows that one of the Kalkaska County wells used 21.1 million gallons of water and two others a combined 20.9 million gallons.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality monitors water use at the wells and said the amount of water being used fits within the range of safe groundwater withdrawals.

"We are monitoring it closely," agency field operations supervisor Rick Henderson said. "We have people out there all the time. We have no interest in doing anything to harm the environment. Our whole goal is to protect the public health, safety and the environment."

Bridget Ford, a spokeswoman for Encana, said the company relies on the state's safety assessment to "determine potential impacts to nearby water resources for the amount of water needed to drill our wells." Ford said the horizontal drilling used in Kalkaska County lets the company reach more natural gas and other resources with less effect on the surface of the land.

Erik Bauss, Michigan field director for the gas producers' group Energy In-Depth, said fracking eliminates the need for greater numbers of traditional wells that would use more water overall.

"We are producing a lot more gas with one well than we would be with 16 or so wells traditionally," Bauss said. "We are using essentially less water to get more gas."

Oil and gas companies have applied for at least 14 new hydraulic fracturing permits in northern Michigan counties as of October 2012, the newspaper said. It said 10 of the applications are for natural gas wells in Kalkaska County.

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Online:

Frac Focus: http://www.frafocus.org

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Information from: Traverse City Record-Eagle, http://www.record-eagle.com

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