Error Found in Penn State Fracking & Water Well Study

oopsMDN recently highlighted a new study of several hundred water wells by Penn State researchers which found no evidence of chemical or methane contamination related to nearby Marcellus gas drilling (see this MDN story). The study did announce one oddity in the data: increased levels of bromide in seven wells. That oddity has now been explained—it was a lab error. Oops. Bottom line conclusion from the study? Shale gas drilling does not lead to either methane or chemical contamination of nearby water wells.

A study by Penn State researchers is being revised after test results apparently linking increased bromide in some water wells to Marcellus Shale gas drilling were traced instead to a lab error.

An error notice was published on Nov. 22 on the website of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, which funded the study and released it in late October.

According to the notice, an accredited laboratory contracted by the researchers incorrectly reported the bromide concentration data that were used in the original report. Updated data showed that increased bromide levels were recorded in one of 42 water wells, not seven wells as originally reported.

The one affected water well also showed increased levels of chloride, hardness and other parameters days after a Marcellus well about a quarter-mile away was hydraulically fractured, but "nearly all" of the increased parameters, including bromide, "had nearly returned to pre-drilling concentrations" after 10 months, according to the notice and the original report.

The study of 233 water wells in 20 Pennsylvania counties did not find any statistically significant increases in methane after drilling or evidence of contamination from the most prominent pollutants found in the wastewater that flows out of natural gas wells after hydraulic fracturing.

According to the error notice, all of the study’s research findings are being reviewed and a revised report will be issued "in the coming weeks."*

*The Scranton Times Tribune (Nov 29, 2011) – Increased bromide caused by lab error not drilling, researchers say

  • Anonymous

    Error here, error there, here an error, there an error.  Studies and/or results are as good as the information on which they are based.  Like the old saying, “Haste makes waste,” In the rush to prove this MS gas drilling industry is beneficial and non polluting, I’m certain more errors will come to light.  Time has a way of proving/disproving studies.  Didn’t Penn State make an error in projecting the number of jobs. too?  Anyone else read that information?  Check it out here:

    //www.foodandwaterwatch.org/tools-and-resources/exposing-the-oil-and-gas-industrys-false-jobs-promise/

  • Thanks for your pearls of wisdom. Point of interest for anyone reading these comments, Food & Water Watch is a well-known anti-drilling group that tends to skew their “facts”.

  • Lab error is a big deal – this is the independent lab saying they made an error.  This is retracting and amending the study – a major faux pas for a scientific study, but obviously no fault of the researchers.  I think you are drastically mischaracterizing the announcement – I don’t see industry foul play, or someone decrying bias.  There was a mistake made which changed the results.  It’s being fixed, and IN THIS CASE it seems to benefit/support drilling.

  • Anonymous

    Ok Jim,
    You are a well known drilling advocate.  So what does that mean?  Do you skew the facts?  Here is another site that states the new job numbers aren’t there:  //keystoneresearch.org/media-center/press-releases/lieutenant-governor-repeats-misleading-marcellus-jobs-number  If you want, and if you can decipher, go to the state job numbers site here:  //www.paworkstats.state.pa.us/admin/gsipub/htmlarea/uploads/Marcellus_Shale_Fast_Facts_Viewing.pdf  This from page 12 of the above report:  ? In 2011 Q2 there were 2,129 New Hires in the Marcellus Shale related core industries. Thiswas 138.1% higher than 2008 Q2
    ? In 2011 Q2 there were 2,129 New Hires in the Marcellus Shale related core industries. Thiswas 138.1% higher than 2008 Q2
    was 138.1% higher than 2008 Q2
    ? In 2011 Q2 there were 16,342 New Hires in the Marcellus Shale related ancillary industries.This was 8.6% higher than 2008 Q2.In 2011 Q2 there were 16,342 New Hires in the Marcellus Shale related ancillary industries.This was 8.6% higher than 2008 Q2.? Across all industries in Pennsylvania, total New Hires in 2011 Q2 were 8.3% lower than in2008 Q2Across all industries in Pennsylvania, total New Hires in 2011 Q2 were 8.3% lower than in2008 Q2

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