A recent study conducted by Duke University found that in Pennsylvania there are connections from deep underground to the surface. These connections allow brine, a salty fluid, to migrate up and contaminate drinking water supplies.
The study raises implications in regards to the environmental effects of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Fracking involves the practice of drilling deep into the ground and then injection enormous amounts of water mixed with sand and chemicals to break apart the shale and release natural gas. Duke researchers also released a study last year that showed methane gas was far more likely to leak into water supplies in places near fracking.
A common fear in Pennsylvania is that the widespread use of fracking at over 11,000 wells above the Marcellus gas field is polluting the drinking water. The findings are significant since members of the hydraulic fracturing industry claim that deeply buried layers of rock prevent the dangerous chemicals used when drilling from reaching the surface.
Duke’s water sampling and subsequent analysis were limited in scope as researchers did not sample for all know chemicals used in drilling and fracking fluids. Duke’s results did show that the subject water supplies were impacted with, in some cases, high concentrations of naturally occurring contaminants. This raises concerns that these water supplies may be at a higher risk of contamination from fracking due to the underlying geology, and drilling operations, which allowed the naturally occurring contaminants to migrate into ground water.