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Study will look at impact of fracking on drinking water

According to an article in the Wilkes Barre Times Leader, a new study aims to answer the question of whether the toxic fluids used in natural gas drilling can pose a threat to drinking water.

Researchers will examine a hydraulic fracturing site in southwestern Pennsylvania, located over Marcellus Shale — a gas-rich rock formation thousands of feet under large parts of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” involves breaking up rock formations underground with water, releasing the natural gas. It’s controversial because the fracking water contains chemicals including the carcinogen benzene, and environmentalists and homeowners worry it may contaminate drinking water.

The article says the researchers will add tracing elements to the fracking fluids. That should allow them to see whether the fluids move upwards or sideways from the Marcellus Shale, which is 8,100 feet deep at that spot.

Other researchers have studied the subject using computer simulations or testing not involving commercial wells. But according to the article, there’s a lot of uncertainty. For example, another recent study suggested that deep, salty brine fluids could migrate upwards through natural pathways, but made no estimate of whether that might take years, decades or centuries.

The article quotes P. Lee Ferguson, a Duke University civil and environmental engineering professor, as saying that that the idea behind the study is a good one. But he cautions that there are complicating factors such as differences in geology throughout the Marcellus region and the fact that some of the fracking compounds work differently underground.

Ferguson says that no single study will answer all of the questions about fracking and pollution.

Lopez McHugh is investigating Marcellus Shale injuries. If you have significant injuries, contact a Lopez McHugh attorney for a free evaluation.

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