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Study: Fracking Wells Contaminate Pennsylvania Drinking Water

September 18th, 2014

A recent study by Ohio State University researchers found that poorly designed fracking wells led to methane contamination of groundwater supplies. The study examined fracking wells drilled to explore the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale in Texas. Researchers found that more than 130 water wells were contaminated with methane gas due to leaky fracking wells. They also found traces of salt water, barium and arsenic among the contaminants in the endangered water wells.

Fracking Wells On The Rise

Hydraulic fracturing involves the use of high-pressure fluid jets injected into shale deposits. The fluids loosen the rock surrounding oil and natural gas deposits and allow drilling companies to access the resources. The advent of fracking wells has increased natural gas production across the U.S. by 30 percent in the last ten years, but the increased use of fracking wells to gain access to oil and natural gas reserves has raised serious questions about environmental contamination.

Cracks In Fracking Wells Lead to Contamination

The Ohio State study found that fracking wells can suffer from cracks in the cement and steel casings. The cracks can come from poor construction, shoddy installation procedures, corrosion from the surrounding underground salt brines, and everyday wear and tear. Also, well pipes are built to be thicker at top and thinner at the base to allow for deeper penetration into the shale deposits. These issues with the integrity of the fracking wells can lead to methane leaks and groundwater contamination.

Fracking Wells Cause Environmental Concerns

The widespread use of fracking wells has caused serious environmental concerns. Even when the wells are in perfect working order, they can leak methane into the air. Methane in more than 30 times as effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, acting as a much more potent greenhouse gas. The high pressure from the fluid injection has also been cited as a cause for an increase in the number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas. Waste fluids from the fracking wells also contain toxic chemicals, which has led many cities to ban fracking within their boundaries.

Source: Discovery News

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