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Fracking Fluids Found in PA Groundwater

May 6th, 2015

Research scientists in Pennsylvania found evidence of fracking fluids leaking into local groundwater supplies. The scientists used new testing methods to detect the fracking fluids near a groundwater source which provides drinking water for several local families. The research marks one of the first verified cases of fracking fluids seeping into a groundwater source. The results of the study, combined with the more sensitive testing methods, have demonstrated that environmental concerns over fracking have scientific justification.

How Fracking Fluids Work

The hydraulic fracturing process, also known as “fracking”, involves the high-pressure injection of water, sand, abrasives and chemicals into underground deposits of crude oil and natural gas. Many of these deposits exist around brittle shale formations. The fracking fluids act to break up the shale formations and allow drillers to access the energy deposits. Environmentalists have raised concerns about the fracking process, including the possibility that fracking fluids can contaminate valuable groundwater sources.

Leaking Wells Allow Fracking Fluids to Escape

The researchers found the fracking fluids leaking into groundwater sources in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, home to one of the largest oil shale deposits on the continent. A drilling company installed five drilling pads, with each pad holding two drilling wells, from 2009 to 2010. While most wells have steel protected casing installed through the length of the well, the first two wells did not have steel casing starting at 300 meters deep and ending at 2100 meters deep. The lack of protective casing allowed natural gas, fracking fluids and sediment to escape into the surrounding groundwater.

New Methods Used to Detect Fracking Fluids

The scientists combined two reliable methods of chemical detection to create a more sensitive test for fracking fluids. The method combines gas chromatography with with mass spectrometry. Gas chromatography differentiates the various ingredients of a chemical formula, while mass spectrometry shows the different chemicals within a substance. The method enabled the scientists to find the ingredients of well-known fracking fluids with a level of precision unavailable with the individual testing methods alone.

Fracking Fluids Contamination Study Breaks Ground

The study’s authors stated that “although media reports of (groundwater contamination) incidents are common, published reports are few.” The fracking fluids study found that the well water contained ingredients of Airfoam HD. According to its manufacturer, Airfoam HD is “an all purpose, air-drilling surfactant that foams in fresh water, brine and the presence of oil.” The test found a chemical compound from the fracking fluids in the groundwater, well water, and water that flows back up the drilling pipes.

Source: Gizmodo

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