Scripps Howard News Service: Fracking wells blamed for polluted water; inspectors overwhelmed.

A widespread method of extracting natural gas by shooting chemical-laced water underground is a growing threat to water supplies in 28 states, say scientists, landowners and environmentalists.

Known as “fracking,” the practice fractures underground rock formations to release vast but otherwise unreachable quantities of natural gas. In cases surfacing around the country, nearby landowners are claiming their water became poisoned shortly after the drilling process began — and they’re convinced frack wells are the cause. But the science of frack wells is uncertain, and the natural gas industry is pushing back hard, saying they’re not to blame. Affected landowners, angry that they’ve been unwittingly subjected to poisoned water, say their frustrations have been compounded by unresponsive regulators who fail to fix their water or hold the drilling companies accountable.

In fact, a Scripps Howard News Service investigation has found:

— Overwhelmed, understaffed state inspectors aren’t keeping up with the booming industry.

— In the last decade, well drillers in Ohio have been cited for 14,409 violations. The violations were from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Mineral Resources Management Division. Many were for small infractions like out-of-date paperwork, but some were for more serious violations like releasing toxic fluids, though sloppy bookkeeping precludes regulators from running computer checks to identify patterns of unresolved violations.

— An oversight system that landowners say is stacked against them, including regulator salaries paid by drilling royalties and political campaigns flush with natural gas-linked financial donations.

More . . .

A CNNMoney video about how fracking threatens local water supplies in Pennsylvania: