By Abrahm Lustgarten

New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years

May 2, 2012 1:02 pm Category: Memo Pad 9 Comments A+ / A-

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica

A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.

More than 5,000 wells were drilled in the Marcellus between mid-2009 and mid-2010, according to the study, which was published in the journal Ground Water two weeks ago. Operators inject up to 4 million gallons of fluid, under more than 10,000 pounds of pressure, to drill and frack each well.

Scientists have theorized that impermeable layers of rock would keep the fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. This view of the earth’s underground geology is a cornerstone of the industry’s argument that fracking poses minimal threats to the environment.

But the study, using computer modeling, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, exacerbated by the effects of fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as “just a few years.”

“Simply put, [the rock layers] are not impermeable,” said the study’s author, Tom Myers, an independent hydrogeologist whose clients include the federal government and environmental groups.

“The Marcellus shale is being fracked into a very high permeability,” he said. “Fluids could move from most any injection process.”

The research for the study was paid for by Catskill Mountainkeeper and the Park Foundation, two upstate New York organizations that have opposed gas drilling and fracking in the Marcellus.

Much of the debate about the environmental risks of gas drilling has centered on the risk that spills could pollute surface water or that structural failures would cause wells to leak.

Though some scientists believed it was possible for fracking to contaminate underground water supplies, those risks have been considered secondary. The study in Ground Water is the first peer-reviewed research evaluating this possibility.

The study did not use sampling or case histories to assess contamination risks. Rather, it used software and computer modeling to predict how fracking fluids would move over time. The simulations sought to account for the natural fractures and faults in the underground rock formations and the effects of fracking.

The models predict that fracking will dramatically speed up the movement of chemicals injected into the ground. Fluids traveled distances within 100 years that would take tens of thousands of years under natural conditions. And when the models factored in the Marcellus’ natural faults and fractures, fluids could move 10 times as fast as that.

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New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years Reviewed by on . by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemica by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemica Rating:

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Comments

  • William Deutschlander

    Thank you Mr Meyers, water, especially potable water is essential to the human condition. I hope that sampling techniques are instituted that can provide some realistic parameters, before it is too late!

    The Drill Baby Drill philosophy poses grave danger to the entire world population.

    The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have reversed a destructive trend, we can not ignore or abandon our Clean Air and Clean Water initatives. Those of us that have seen and experienced the tremendous strides that EPA has pursued, are thankful for and impressed with the remarkable result.

    We should be mindful that President Nixon, who disgraced himself, should be thanked for getting the Environmental Protection Agency implemented, for those who want to forget, a reminder, Nixon and his Administration were Republican and recognized the serious need for EPA!

    • hopeforfuture22

      too bad republicans have gone to the fanatical right. so sad but so true.

  • SaneJane

    Water is more valuable than any fuel. Endangering our water supply now may lead to a crisis unlike any this world has every known. Without adequate potable water earth’s population is doomed and will have no need for fuels.

  • hopeforfuture22

    Sounds like we should all keep the Drill Baby Drill Republicans from gaining control of the White House, Congress and Senate before they get richer and we all get dead from their shortsighted plans to keep using fossil fuels until the atmosphere and pollution kill us all and Earth has to start over again making new life forms. Take heart; humans and most mammals won’t survive but insects and plant life should flourish while the oceans cleanse themselves and the circle of life begins again.

  • howa4x

    This is but another case of how corporations hold Americans hostage to their profits. If they spent more and did it right by not using chemicals that endanger potable water supplies then there would be a lesser problem. If the energy companies put a solar collector on every house or a home size windmill we could solve our energy demand, instead of poisoning the water or air. This is the danger of Wall st where profits count more than people and greed is greater than morality.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QZOLTTTPLTLGELEYLKM7HUJPSU Davekzy1

    I already new this. With well houses blowing up and tap water burning, this is already happening. Just ask the children in Pa who got severe chemical burns just taking a shower. Fracking fluid is deadly, killing every plant, animal and insect it touches when spilled. Heck even a nurse in Colorado almost died just coming in contact with the stuff. Research these claims and you’ll find them true. In Texas, the two highest fracked counties have a 25% asthma rate in toddlers. Natural gas is NOT clean burning! When this gets into the underground water supplies. nothing will grow.

  • ChristianMartin

    Those worthless motherfrackers !! They manage to frack up at least half of what they touch !!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Lavigne/100003001156534 Daniel Lavigne

    Money is more valuable than any fluid, or solid. It must be!

    It must be as we have actually permitted the soiling of our water and the fouling of the air we breathe. We have done so in adherence to the orders of the greediest amongst us: The evil minded parasites who demand ‘More!” of each and everything they can obtain.

    Due their existence as psychopaths without conscience they can and will murder us, if necessary, in order that we heed their commands to us to ignore the costs and consequences to our future progeny and allow or ignore the present day destruction of all values.

    Woe! While suffering the shame of such an existence, we willfully ignore all signs and practical indications that we are now exceeding the earth’s ability to supply necessary and renewable resources to service our ‘needs’, not our ‘wants’.

    Its time for a revolution folks!

    ‘A Revolution of Thought’ wherein ALL make the efforts necessary to help guide the whole of humanity to a worthwhile future.

    Daniel J. Lavigne, Founder
    International Humanity House (IHH)
    ‘The Tax Refusal’
    TaxRefusal(DOT)com

  • 1olderbutwiser1

    We are indeed balancing needs for clean water with high-tech filtration systems. Unfortunately, it’s not free. My water filter that costs less than a penny a gallon removes all those harmful things. And so, the alarmist thing is…..?????? Eventually we’ll be burning water with hydrogen technology and I am sure there will be alarmists then as well. Anytime there is a technology as new and different as fracking comes on, it takes a few years to work out the inherent problems, but technology is a strange creature in that it requires education to find existing faults, and then more technology to correct those faults. I live in SW Pa., and lawyers here (as everywhere, I’m sure) are lining up to steal from the “greedy ones” to give to the “victims”. Many of the “victims” are happy to collect royalties while trying to do a double-dip through lidigy.

    The Playboy cartoon from a few years back shows the process clearly…..A milk cow with the head being industry, the body giving milk, and maybe eventually some meat, but the lawyer is milking the cow for his own use. The milk by far represents the profit from owning the cow.

    This brings to mind, the drug Prodaxa (is that spelled right) where the company is advertising to use the drug, and the next commercial is a lawyer advising to sue if you use it? Where is all this money coming from, and who do you think gets the bulk of any profits? Surely, we have a serious moral decline in this country headed by the American Bar Association. One of the principle reasons we came here and broke away from England was the excess of Lawyers there, Here, and now, we simply need to vote for representatives who are not lawyers. Common sense can then prevail. It would probably be logical today to place a special tax on lawyers just as we have on smokers……maybe a quarter mill a year for a license to proceed with destruction of our freedoms?

    I sincerely doubt if that would be adequate, actually. Think about it….it has gotten to the point in this country that no sale is ever final, there always some lawyer somewhere that can nullify a sale, even if it requires new laws to be introduced to do so. That’s a truism if there ever was one.

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