Jun 21, 2018

Studies Find Drilling Boom Makes Low Impact on Pennsylvania Groundwater

Two studies by Yale and Penn State researchers found Pennsylvania groundwater received little to no damage from recent fracking increase

Study finds fracking has low impact on water quality
Study finds fracking has low impact on water quality

Two new studies by researchers from Yale University and Penn State University found that horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has had little impact on groundwater quality in Pennsylvania near the Marcellus Shale, a rock layer that holds the nation’s largest reservoir of natural gas. Since 2008, energy companies have drilled more than 11,000 wells in the area, but the two studies, published in the journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Environmental Science & Technology respectively, found that levels of methane, barium, arsenic and iron had little change and even improved in some areas.

The study conducted by Yale researchers installed eight water wells and drew samples every few weeks for two years, according to the Associated Press. The study found that methane spiked in some wells, but attributed the increase to natural variability and not fracking.

The other study, conducted by Penn State researchers, analyzed more than 11,000 groundwater samples collected since 2010 by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Overall, the researchers found that water quality remained unchanged or even improved for barium, arsenic and iron. They found slightly elevated concentrations of methane in just seven out of 1,385 shale wells. 

“It really doesn’t look like the groundwater chemistry has gotten worse, even though we’ve had this huge number of shale gas wells drilled,” said Susan Brantley, co-author of the Penn State study.