Here They Go Again: Drill, Baby, Drill
Anti-Environmental Fervor on Rise in State Houses

New Report: Drilling Contaminates Drinking Wells with Methane

Drillingsite Gas drilling contaminates drinking water wells, after all, a new study suggests -- but with methane, not hydrofracking chemicals.

Methane concentrations in drinking water wells near natural gas drilling sites in the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania and New York are 17 times higher, on average, than concentrations of this gas in drinking water wells in areas without any drilling, a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes.

“At least some of the homeowners who claim that their wells were contaminated by shale-gas extraction appear to be right," said one of the authors, Robert B. Jackson of Duke University

Researchers examined drinking water drawn from 60 wells across northeastern Pennsylvania and New York State, and found methane in 85 percent of them. However, the scientists did not find any evidence of contamination of the water with hydraulic fracturing chemicals or fluids.

Drilling industry representatives have long argued that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has not caused a single verified case of drinking water contamination -- a claim that has been contested by residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, who say they have evidence of polluted drinking water.

The study released today provides evidence of methane contamination of drinking water, but not contamination from chemial compounds, such hydrochloric acid or diesel fuel.  As part of the hydraulic fracturing process that shatters rock to release natural gas, these chemicals are mixed with millions of gallons of water and sand and injected by drilling companies a mile or more into the ground.  The process produces wastewater that can contain both chemicals and high salt concentrations. Environmentalists have been concerned that this wastewater is sometimes spilled or released only partially treated into streams and rivers that flow toward the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information, click here

By Tom Pelton

Chesapeake Bay Foundation



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Its a disservice to indicate methane (as awful as it is) as the sole contaminator of drinking water.

Its critical to note the Safe Drinking Water Act loophole frees frackers from reporting specific toxic chemicals used in fracking.

Resultingly, its a bit difficult for researchers to determine the presense of a highly toxic chemical when their inclusion in the fracking process is unknown.

In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Environmental Protection has publicly released a list of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, including hydrochloric acid.

It is available here:

Good point Tom. After much pushing and prodding, PA's DEP was able to compile a list of chemicals used in fracking.

...except those used by Halliburton.

"But MSDSs exist only for substances that are known to the public and have been tested to determine their toxicity. If a company claims that a chemical or some other material is a trade secret, it can withhold the name and the "specific identification" of the chemical as long as the chemical's general effects are listed on the MSDS, according to an OSHA spokeswoman.

Halliburton tried to persuade the EPA to accept MSDSs in lieu of the more detailed list of ingredients the agency requested -- but the EPA said that information was insufficient."

"Scott Perry, director of Pennsylvania's Oil and Gas Bureau, said he doesn't know how many drilling chemicals don't have an MSDS or have an MSDS that contains only limited information. When asked how he would determine the number of chemicals that will remain undisclosed under the new regulations, he said he did not know.

Pennsylvania law also gives drillers another way to avoid disclosure: They can designate any information they provide to regulators as a trade secret, which means it would not be available to the public. Under the state's Right-to-Know Act, any information that a company says allows it to create "independent economic value" because it isn't generally known can be labeled a trade secret and made exempt from public disclosure requirements."

I did not know that, JG. Thanks very much for providing that information.

Those with money rule. Energy companies spend more money in Washington than any other lobby. No question they're getting their money's worth. For the little people like us, our only protection is filtering our drinking water one gallon at a time.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)