Frack or Fiction? Study Says Fracking Does Not Contaminate Aquifer in Pennsylvania

Story tools

A A AResize


 Fracking chemicals do not cause water pollution, according to preliminary results of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) study on hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus shale formation of Pennsylvania.

After a year of monitoring the aquifer near a drilling site in western Pennsylvania, DOE researchers could find no traces of the fluids that are laced with chemicals and injected thousands of feet below the surface, the Associated Press reported on July 19. In other words, the chemicals stayed where they were injected, 8,000 feet underground, rather than rising to pollute the aquifer, the DOE told the wire service.

To conduct the experiment, researchers tagged drilling fluids with marker chemicals that would identify them, then injected them underground, at the site of the gas well, AP said. But a year later they still had not been detected in a monitoring zone that was 5,000 feet below the surface 3,000 feet above where they had been placed. The Marcellus Shale formation is underneath sections of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia. Hydraulic fracturing is the practice of injecting water mixed with various compounds into the shale and setting off small explosions to loosen the rock and liberate the natural gas.