A new study, which can boast of having one of the most comprehensive water quality datasets in the Appalachian basin prior to Marcellus and Utica shale development, was recently released in the journal, Applied Geochemistry.
The study, led by Don Siegel of Syracuse University, analyzed over 21,000 samples of groundwater collected by third party contractors from individual domestic or stock water-supply wells before Chesapeake Energy Corporation drilled nearby Marcellus and Utica shale oil and gas wells. According to the study’s summary:
“Our comparison of these results to historical groundwater data from NE Pennsylvania, which pre-dates most unconventional shale gas development, shows that the recent pre-drilling geochemical data is similar to historical data. We see no broad changes in variability of chemical quality in this large dataset to suggest any unusual salinization caused by possible release of produced waters from oil and gas operations, even after thousands of gas wells have been drilled among tens of thousands of domestic wells within the two areas studied.”
The study falls in line with previous studies from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), which also found major ions and metals in exceedance of federal drinking water standards in a majority of private water wells in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio prior to development. Of course, it also bolsters the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) comprehensive five year study, which found that “hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources.”
Due to a lack of water well standards in Pennsylvania, residents have always had water quality issues throughout the Commonwealth. Now, because of regulatory framework for oil and gas development, operators are required to take a baseline sample of water wells near drilling operations. According to the report:
“The geochemical dataset we describe consists of data compiled from Chesapeake’s groundwater quality survey programs designed to sample domestic/stock water wells within a radius of 762-1219 m from proposed unconventional oil and gas well sites prior to drilling operations. The spacing of sampling was done according to accepted state regulatory programs, but Chesapeake often went beyond the requirements of these programs (for example the required pre-drill sampling distance per Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) regulations in Pennsylvania is 762 m, but Chesapeake often extended that sampling distance to 1219 m).” (Emphasis added, p. 40)Read more by clicking here.
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