Environment
6:00 am
Tue June 25, 2013

Duke Study Finds Additional Gases In Groundwater Near Pennsylvania Fracking Sites

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
A facking site in the Marcellus Shale.
Credit wcn 247 / Flickr

New samples of drinking water near hydraulic fracturing sites in Pennsylvania show more evidence of natural gas contamination. 

A report released today from Duke University says researchers found ethane and propane in addition to methane in water near fracking sites in the Marcellus shale basin.  The same team of scientists first found elevated levels of methane in Pennsylvania drinking water in 2011.

Rob Jackson is a Duke environmental science professor and lead author of the study.  He says people living within a kilometer of a natural gas well are at a much higher risk of water contamination.

"We don't think we're seeing evidence of the hydraulic fracturing itself opening cracks thousands of feet from underground to the surface.  Instead, the simpler cause is people being in a hurry perhaps or not careful enough to seal these wells or protect these wells properly," Jackson says.

Jackson and his colleagues also conducted a study that found no evidence of water contamination near fracking sites in Arkansas.  He says differences in geology could also be contributing to the varying results.  Lawmakers in the General Assembly are considering a bill that would allow companies to get fracking permits as early as 2015.