Monday, May 09, 2011

Duke U. study links gas drilling and fracturing to presence of methane in drinking water

"For the first time, a scientific study has linked natural-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with a pattern of drinking water contamination," Abram Lustgarten reports for ProPublica. The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests "potential for widespread contamination of rural drinking water from drilling in the Marcellus Shale under Pennsylvania, New York and other states," Mike Soraghan writes for Greenwire.

The drilling industry has pooh-poohed the concerns, and is criticizing the study, but "Some of these landowners have a legitimate complaint. It looks like there's a real problem," study author Robert Jackson, an environmental chemist at Duke University, told Greenwire.

"What the study did not find is evidence that hydraulic fracturing fluid or flowback waste is getting into drinking water," Soraghan notes. "The contamination was methane, the principal component in natural gas, which can build up inside houses and cause them to explode. The study found average methane was 17 times higher within 3,000 feet of drilling than water farther away." Industry groups said there is no proof that the methane came from drilling, and noted the lack of before-and-after data. (Read more, subscription required) For the ProPublica story, click here.

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