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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Water Contamination From Fracking Isn't the Clear-Cut Threat That Activists Say it Is, Researchers Say

From Public Radio International:
Before they drill a well, gas companies typically test nearby groundwater, which can help shield them from contamination claims. But the results are locked away — like a patient’s medical records, they’re the private property of the homeowners whose lands are tested. 
There are other legal hurdles, too. In cases of alleged groundwater contamination, landowners often sue a drilling company. In many instances, a company will settle the case if the landowners agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement. “Then the data doesn’t come out,” Brantley explains, “and that’s really a big loss.” 
Brantley might have found a workaround. Gas companies send their results to the DEP, and she's working with the DEP to remove identifying information — like names and addresses — from the tests so she can use them in her database. And, slowly, a picture is starting to emerge. 
“In our database, we have not found a lot of incidents of contamination due to the shale gas industry,” Brantley says. “There are some incidents, for sure, but we haven’t found a lot of them.” 
Another problem for scientists is nature itself. Fred Baldassare, a former DEP geologist, studies underground methane migration. In a study he did with help from gas companies, he found that gas that looked like it was from the Marcellus Shale was actually embedded in rock formations closer to the surface. He thinks this has tricked other researchers into thinking gas found in shallow parts of the ground was the result of drilling or fracking in the Marcellus.
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