An official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said a progress report on its study of the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on drinking water should be issued before the end of the year, and the final report published in 2014.

Meanwhile, the agency announced that it is also seeking public involvement and, especially, peer-reviewed studies on fracking to help it complete its own report.

EPA Science Advisor Glenn Paulson told a conference at the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh on Friday that the EPA’s analysis of drinking water “is one of the most aggressive public outreach programs in EPA history,” according to the Associated Press. The conference was held to discuss the potential public health impacts of fracking.

“It will really be a lot for experts to chew on in their particular fields,” Paulson said. He added that the results of the drinking water study are “going to be useful to local governments and state governments, too.”

Slides from Paulson’s presentation indicate that the EPA may not have determined where it will conduct four prospective case studies; sites where water is to be analyzed during every stage of the fracking process (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22, 2011).

The agency was considering sites in Greene County, PA; Laramie County, WY; the Flower Mound and Bartonville areas in southern Denton County, TX; and on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in ND. Those sites sit atop the Marcellus, Niobrara, Barnett and Bakken shale plays, respectively.

Paulson’s slides showed the EPA’s retrospective sites — where drinking water contamination has been reported and blamed on fracking — as Killdeer in Dunn County, ND; Wise County, TX; Bradford, Susquehanna and Washington counties, PA, and Las Animas County, CO. Those test sites are, respectively, in the Bakken, Barnett and Marcellus shale plays and the Raton Basin.

Congress instructed the EPA to conduct the drinking water study in 2010 (see Daily GPI, March 19, 2010). The agency has previously stated that it plans to deliver an interim report to Congress in December and a final report by 2014 (see Shale Daily, Nov. 4, 2011).

In Friday’s issue of the Federal Register, the EPA said it was seeking peer-reviewed studies and public comments on fracking through April 30.

“While EPA conducts a thorough literature search, there may be studies or other primary technical sources that are not available through the open literature,” the agency said. “[We] would appreciate receiving information from the public to help inform current and future research and ensure a robust record of scientific information…[we] will consider all submissions but will give preference to peer-reviewed data and literature sources.”

“We’re seeing that the EPA is looking for more public comment and input to really gather all of the science that’s out there,” Dana Bohan, a researcher with Energy In Depth, an industry-backed national shale gas education initiative, told NGI’s Shale Daily Monday. “That is exactly what they should be doing. Time and again we have seen that this is a safe and proven process. We’re very confident that’s what the EPA will come up with again with this study.”