Journalism in the Public Interest

New Study: Fluids From Marcellus Shale Likely Seeping Into PA Drinking Water

Researchers show natural fluids are migrating from thousands of feet underground and reaching drinking water supplies, raising concerns that man-made chemicals and waste could do the same.

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Brian Oram

July 17, 2012, 2:44 a.m.

This is not new information for PA.  There are natural saline and brine water seeps and probably at least 5 % of private wells are significantly impacted by saline water.  The main reason for private wells having a saline water fingerprint is that many private wells are too deep and there was really no requirement to test the wells at the time of drilling.  The water well placement and construction is likely facilitating this migration.  This is one reason for the Citizens Database - to identify these areas, track change, and if possible fix private wells that are acting as conduits for contamination.

Eric Ryan

July 17, 2012, 8:25 a.m.

The Duke study released will only fuel the controversy: hence the billion comments on this article. That’s not good for anyone. The report is vague and either sides of the argument can twist it to mean anything they want. Learn more about it here:


July 18, 2012, 3:01 p.m.

If I read these comments long enough, do you suppose I will - one day - read a comment from an employee or other financial beneficiary of the fracking industry that simply says “We’re so confident not only in the safety and stability of the techniques and equipment we use but in the planet’s continued and permanent willingness to forgo any crustal movements in the affected areas that today the fracking industry will begin buying the bonds required to indemnify all current, past, and future fracking operations, thus securing all current and future property owners in all affected regions against hurt, loss, or damage resulting from toxic emissions or water contamination (up to the projected maximum output capacity of any affected region’s aquifers) until the end of time.”??

I think that would be much more effective than the industry’s current policy of combining a demand that the public just trust them with a demand that the public bear all risk while the industry harvests all reward.

Sean Bowers

July 19, 2012, 2:59 a.m.

This is all very interesting considering I’m an undergrad in petroleum engineering and this is a highly debated topic. BUT honestly people there are these types of risk with everything you do in life. For drilling its hard to figure out what your drilling into 1000 to 10k feet down. there are unknowns. just like for people building houses, you never know if your going to get one bad support that could snap in a few years. There are to many unknowns to just rule it out. I understand the prevention to not damage our water source but people come on we are a trillion in debt and we are like the power house of gas why not use our NATIVE resources to help our country. At some point people have to realize that if we can take advantage of our resources we can supply the world with gas easily. Also I know as a petroleum engineer the big thing with fracking shales is the increase in production. here some quick facts i know of, not going to cite cause its 3am and im tired. and writing a research paper actually about fracking. lol

Hydraulic fracturing can increase the production of a well by 1.5 to 30 times the initial rate of flow, as well as the overall production from 5 to 15%. Also, a well can be fraced multiple times during its production life. also said 30% of oil wells and 50% of gas wells are fracked.

Fracking has been around for a long time. I dont understand why everyone is having such a big deal about this now. Honestly, people should really state what they do and how they get their info for this topic. I am related to the field and I use academic databases that have reviewed and published for most of what I read and will defend. Internet isnt always the true.

Very interesting topic and the future will tell all. Just support your claims and dont bash without true support.

Sincerely, Sean


July 19, 2012, 7:20 a.m.

Sean, even if we set aside the environmental, climate and sustainability concerns about burning fossil fuels, were still left with safety and you tell us that the ends justify the means.

The powerhouse of fuel vs. trillions of debt argument simply doesn’t work for me.  Cheap’ish energy has been the argument of apathy for forty years.  I wonder how many advances we’d have seen over that time if our energies were directed toward renewables. 
Beyond that, the costs of “accidents” far outweigh the benefits.  You say there’s risk in everything we do… will you take the risk?  When you’ve earned your degree and start earning those petroleum industry pay checks will you move your family to one of those places where your well water may be contaminated?

You asked where we get our information.  If only the energy industry had a better track record of safety vs. profit, you’d have asked a reasonable question.  We’ve seen it time and time again… safety is minimized to increase profit.  I don’t think a list of the accidents and impacts they had on lives is necessary and yet, advocates of fracturing speak of them as if they impact an alien race on some other planet.

A simple thought experiment:  How many times could a friend lie to you before you stopped believing everything they said until you could corroborate it?


July 19, 2012, 9:50 a.m.

Sean, You have proved a point that is truly to frightening to me.  People are just not informed or educated as to what is REALLY going on.  Once the land is polluted and our water supply (which is really our greatest resource) is gone what then?  Do you think there will be any food left to eat once all this land and ground water is polluted? Do you not think that our cattle is effected now from drinking this water.  Do you not believe that the next time you eat steak or a hamberger that it could have come from a farm where fracking is going on and guess what… could have eaten some strange chemical.  Is this really worth it to you.  Do you honestly believe that the people who have allowed Fracking to go on on their farmlands understood the magnitude of what they were signing on to.  I think you and everyone needs to really do more research and educate yourselves because if you look at all sides.  ITS NOT WORTH IT!  GET SMART!  WAKE UP….


July 19, 2012, 3:45 p.m.

Good luck with the paper and the degree Sean. I am also a PE undergrad, graduating in May.

Nancy where is your research? This study here shows that no frac fluid was found. That is what Jackson said in the second to last paragraph. How does this study show no frac fluid contamination, and for you every single drop of water on this planet is contaminated?

Do you even know what is in frac fluid? All of the chemicals can be found in your home, but here you go.
This one is from energy from shale, an obvious pro-fracking organization.

And this one if from the EPA, saying basically the same exact thing.

I thought I would find something from both sides of the story here, and they say the same thing.


July 20, 2012, 2:15 p.m.

Sean’s “For drilling its hard to figure out what your drilling into 1000 to 10k feet down. there are unknowns. just like for people building houses, you never know if your going to get one bad support that could snap in a few years. There are to many unknowns to just rule it out.” is…interesting.

To insist that there is no difference between a housing foundation that plunges to the staggering depth of 14 feet and then relies upon support structures that are individually visually (at least) inspected twice each (during manufacture and during installation, minimum) and blindly drilling 10,000 feet further down across numerous different types of rock whose integrity is an educated guess derived from extremely low-resolution variations of echo technology (I stress “interpretations” of echoes, as in “this echo usually means that this layer is rock of this porosity, density, and permeability”) and then concluding by intentionally altering the load bearing capacity of the gas-bearing strata by shattering it absolutely…

Now I really am worried about the output of America’s STEM education system.

Steve H

July 23, 2012, 6:46 p.m.

You know anyone who has ever actually worked on a drilling rig already knew this. Several times during the course of drilling a well the old rig will get to jumping and bumping and you know you’re drilling through a fracture in the formation.

In other words it is a rare formation that isn’t already naturally fractured so the idea of anything solid and rock like between the pay zone they are fracking and the formations above including aquifers is for worms;(ie those with no experience drilling wells) to believe.

Go back to the story on Lewis Meeks. ECANA polluted the area around Pavillion Wyoming and have now packed up and left. The state government in response has started a program where home owners can now get a cistern installed and then pay to have drinkable water hauled to them.

Good luck on the Pennsylvania.

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This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

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