New PA Study: No Link Between Fracking & Water Contamination

broken linkThe Center for Rural Pennsylvania is a bipartisan legislative agency serving as a resource and research arm for rural policy in the Pennsylvania Assembly and Senate. The Center has just released the results of a study conducted in 2010 and 2011 analyzing the impacts of Marcellus Shale gas drilling on rural drinking water supplies. This was an unbiased, large scale study of water quality in 233 private water wells in rural Pennsylvania before and after the drilling of nearby Marcellus Shale gas wells. The study results are embedded below.

The study found that dissolved methane exists in about 20 percent of private water wells—before drilling begins. In the executive summary, the study concludes:

In this study, statistical analyses of post-drilling versus pre-drilling water chemistry did not suggest major influences from gas well drilling or hydrofracturing (fracking) on nearby water wells, when considering changes in potential pollutants that are most prominent in drilling waste fluids. When comparing dissolved methane concentrations in the 48 water wells that were sampled both before and after drilling (from Phase 1), the research found no statistically significant increases in methane levels after drilling and no significant correlation to distance from drilling. However, the researchers suggest that more intensive research on the occurrence and sources of methane in water wells is needed.

Bottom line: This study shows that fracking does not cause chemical contamination of water wells, and while the authors recommend more study of methane migration, there is no empirical evidence that fracking causes migration of methane into water wells either.


  • Chris Salmon

    Excellent.  Yet more ammunition to use against the anti-fracking industry and their efforts to harm our country and it’s people by preventing us from accessing our natural resources.

  • Anonymous

    You headline and summary are the opposite of what this study demonstrates, which shows that a fracing chemical appeared in water wells within 1,700′ of gas wells after fracing.   

    In the Phase 1 half of the study, 26 water wells within 2,500′ of a gas well were sampled by researchers before drilling and then after fracing.  How long after fracing was done is not clear except that 74% were done with 70 days, so call it medium term.  Only two pre-drilling samples showed more than trace levels of methane, and those were quite low at 5 mg/L.  From the graphs provided, no samples showed fracing produced increases in TDS, Cl, Ba, or Mn — however these are not used in fracing but are found in formation waters.  Only 1 sample produced a doubling of methane, but that was still at a low level, again methane a naturally occurring chemical.  The only chemical used in fracing that was tested for and illustrated was Br.  It is usually in the biocide, which is quite toxic in even trace concentrations.  Br levels increased in several wells within 1,700′ of gas wells.   MBAS surfactant test was also done on some samples, but the results are not
    presented.   It would be interesting to see if surfactants showed a similar pattern as Br, but I am not sure how selective this colormetric test is for the surfactents used in fracing.

    There was also a phase 2, where they sampled 185 water wells within 5,000′ of gas wells pre-drilling and sampling post-drilling was done either home owner or researcher.  They did not appear to analyse for Br in this Phase except for maybe 8 samples, which are not shown.  They did analyse many samples using MBAS for surfactents, but again results are not shown.

    In their conclusions, the authors recommend that based on their data, the area for pre-drilling notification and for which any post-fracing pollution is assumed to be the responsibilty of the drilling be expanded to a radius of 3,000′.  Presumably sampling would be required within this area as well.  This would be approximately a ten time increase in area and presumably in water wells.

  • Anonymous

    Suggest you read the report.  BinFranklin sums up statistics presented which are contrary to what is posted here on the MDN.

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  • Mitch

    No.  Chris is right.  This is clear data to refut the inference that Fracking causes methane poisoning of wells. 

    BinFranklin shows a flawed process and predisposition.  1) He said BR was not tested — YET HE INCLUDES an opinion that BR increased in wells (from some other report or personal bias)  2) The gas is smaller than the Br  — IT would have showed up.  3) BinFranklin has revealed that he would develop a process to GO LOOKING FOR A PROCESS TO PROVE HIS BIAS, instead of having an open mind.

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