Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Study finds volatile gases in water wells near shale-gas wells in Pennsylvania

People living close to shale-gas wells have a higher risk of drinking water contaminated by combustible gases, according to a study by researchers at Duke University, Dennis Thompson reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"The study looked at 141 private water wells in the Marcellus Shale basin in northeastern Pennsylvania, where companies are using hydraulic fracturing to tap hard-to-access pockets of natural gas," Thompson reports. Methane was detected in 82 percent of the samples, with the average concentrations six times higher in homes about six-tenths of a mile from a natural gas well. Ethane and propane concentrations were also higher, with ethane 23 times higher in those wells, and propane found in 10 wells.

"These are volatile gases and in particular concentrations, they burn. If they leak into your home and build up, particularly in enclosed spaces, there's an explosive risk," Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, told Thompson. He did say that he doesn't see any risk in drinking the contaminated water, because it's unlikely someone could drink enough to become sick. (Read more)

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