Household drinking water that comes from wells near known fracking sites contains levels of methane six times greater than what’s common elsewhere, a new study has found.
Researchers at Duke University sampled drinking water from 141
wells across northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York and
determined that the concentration of methane, the main component
of natural gas, is much higher when those wells are within one
kilometer of a hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” sites.
Fracking is a method of drilling deep into the Earth in order to
extract natural gas and has seen an emergence in recent years as
an increasingly popular process used by energy companies. That
spread in popularity is not without opposition from
environmentalists and activists, however, who fear fracking has
detrimental effects on the Earth.
According to the latest study, researchers have linked fracking
sites with methane contamination several times over what is seen
elsewhere. The scientists say that those high levels aren’t a
direct result of the drilling, though, but caused in part by poor
well construction that has allowed the water to become
“It is looking like we are seeing a problem with well
construction in some places and not others,” wrote the
study’s main author, Robert Jackson.
“Poor casing and cementing problems are the simplest
explanation of what we found,” he said, but declined to
single out well construction as the exclusive cause of the
“We need to understand why, in some cases, shale gas
extraction contaminates groundwater and how to keep it from
happening elsewhere,” the researchers wrote.
Jackson and his crew determined that 82 percent of the 141 water
wells tested had elevated levels of methane, with other additives
appearing in unusually high numbers as well. In addition to
finding methane concentrations at around six times the usual
level, Jackson also found ethane concentrations 23 times higher
in drinking water at homes near fracking sites. In ten of the
sites located within one kilometer of a drilling, propane was
detected in 10 separate water samples.
“The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from
hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has
affected some homeowners’ water,” Jackson wrote.
Steve Everley, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, told the Wall
Street Journal that Jackon’s study “is not a smoking gun to
say that gas drilling is a problem.”
“There is methane concentration near gas wells, but there is
also methane concentrations in areas where there is no gas
drilling,” he said. Energy in Depth, wrote the Journal, is
funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Jackson’s peer-reviewed study appeared in this week’s edition of
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This article originally appeared on: RT