Thursday, June 18, 2015

Texas study finds contaminants in groundwater around fracking operations

A study by Texas scientists published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology "found drilling-related contaminants in groundwater around the Dallas-Fort Worth area where companies have been heavily drilling the Barnett Shale for more than a decade," Mike Soraghan reports for EnergyWire. The researchers, who hail from colleges throughout the state, say their analysis of 550 groundwater samples from private and public water supply wells above the Barnett Formation "is the largest analysis of groundwater quality in aquifers in a shale drilling zone," covering an area where "more than 20,000 shale gas wells have been drilled since the early 2000s." 

Researchers "detected elevated levels of 10 types of metals and the presence of 19 chemical compounds, including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene, commonly grouped as 'BTEX,'" Soraghan writes. Study authors wrote: "These data do not necessarily identify UOG activities as the source of contamination. However, they do provide a strong impetus for further monitoring and analysis of groundwater quality in this region as many of the compounds we detected are known to be associated with UOG techniques." (Sampled water wells (red) in relation to UOG wells (dark grey) throughout the 641 Barnett shale region (grey))

Drilling industry group Energy in Depth said the research failed to prove that the contamination came from drilling, Soraghan writes. Spokesman Dave Quast told Soraghan, "We are still reviewing the study, but what stands out is that even the authors admit that their data do not identify oil and gas activities as the source of contamination." Quast also referred to an Environmental Protection Agency report released earlier this month that found no evidence that fracking posed widespread damage to water supplies. Advocates and critics of fracking have both interpreted the report to justify their claims. (Read more)

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