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Fracking is dangerous, study shows

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Staff writer ▼ | June 26, 2013
Fracking may contaminate drinking water, shows a study by Duke University. People living within one kilometer of shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of having their drinking water contaminated.
Fracking
FrackingFracking may contaminate drinking water, shows a study by Duke University. People living within one kilometer of shale gas wells appear to be at higher risk of having their drinking water contaminated.


Hydraulic fracturing, also called hydrofracking or fracking, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground into horizontal gas wells at high pressure to crack open hydrocarbon-rich shale and extract natural gas. Accelerated shale gas drilling and hydrofracking in recent years has fueled concerns about contamination in nearby drinking water supplies.

Duke scientists analyzed 141 drinking water samples from private water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania's gas-rich Marcellus shale basin. Their study documented not only higher methane concentrations in drinking water within a kilometer of shale gas drilling - which past studies have shown - but higher ethane and propane concentrations as well.

Methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well. Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.

"The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium isotopes, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners' water. In a minority of cases, the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by faulty well construction," said Robert B. Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.

The ethane and propane contamination data are "new and hard to refute," said Mr. Jackson. "There is no biological source of ethane and propane in the region and Marcellus gas is high in both, and higher in concentration than the Upper Devonian gas found in-between."

The team examined which factors might explain their results, including topography, distance to gas wells and distance to geologic features. "Distance to gas wells was, by far, the most significant factor influencing gases in the drinking water we sampled," Mr. said Jackson.

The new study confirms that France was right insisting on fracking ban. The ban is in place since 2011 and despite all industry pressure, the government insisted that fracking will not be allowed. The practice had been banned in many European nations due to concerns of environmental damage.


 

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