Thursday, October 14, 2010

Preliminary study suggest fracking, by definition, harms water; industry says finding not proven

Preliminary research from the Academy of Natural Sciences suggests hydraulic fracturing for natural gas can degrade nearby streams even without spills or accidents. "The researchers compared watersheds where there was no or little drilling to watersheds where there was a high density of drilling, and found significant changes," Sandy Bauers of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "Water conductivity, an indicator of contamination by salts that are a component of drilling wastewater, was almost twice as high in streams with high-density drilling."

"Populations of salamanders and aquatic insects, animals sensitive to pollution, were 25 percent lower in streams with the most drilling activity," Bauers writes. The Academy is the nation's oldest natural-science research center and a leader in stream biology. Researchers noted "their study was not looking at drilling accidents or other irregularities, but whether -- and if so, at what point -- drilling posed a potential for harm," Bauers writes. The study has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal.

"This suggests there is indeed a threshold at which drilling, regardless of how it is practiced, will have a significant impact on an ecosystem," David Velinsky, vice president of the academy's Patrick Center for Environmental Research, told Bauers. Travis Windle, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group, said the group "does not comment on preliminary, non-peer reviewed, unreleased 'studies' that we have not even had the opportunity to examine," and noted the presence of total dissolved solids in streams wasn't necessarily related to drilling. (Read more)

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