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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Can frack fluids migrate upwards to groundwater? New study says yes

A new study by hydrologic consultant Tom Meyers that was published in the journal Ground Water has concluded that fracking chemicals injected into the ground in the Marcellus Shale could migrate toward drinking water supplies, and do so  far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.
Meyers has also studied a case of groundwater contamination in Pavilion, Wyoming on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (full disclosure: I have recently completed a consulting engagement with NRDC), the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Sierra Club and the Oil and Gas Accountability Project. There, Myers concluded that fracking was indeed the cause of the contamination.
Scientists and the gas industry have claimed that thousands of feet of impermeable layers of rock between the Marcellus shale bed and groundwater supplies would keep fracking fluid, which contains benzene and other dangerous chemicals, safely isolated nearly a mile below those water supplies. Indeed, as I wrote in an article for Energy Dimensions, a new UK study suggested that the risk of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing is very low, and that it can be virtually eliminated if fracking is stopped a minimum of 600 meters from aquifers. 
The Meyers Marcellus study used computer modeling and concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus, and the effects of high-pressure fracking itself, could allow chemicals to reach the surface in as little as "just a few years."
Who is right? We urgently need more science to find the answer. 

UPDATE:  More on the study and reaction to it here.  I am told that the industry will be responding tomorrow or Monday. I will post that response as well.

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