Hydrofracking: Duke Study Links Fracking to Bad Water While Obama Study Says, "What Pollution?"

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked the can down the road on a key study designated to examine the connection between hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming. 

A study originally scheduled for release in 2014 and featured in Josh Fox's film Gasland 2, it will not be complete until 2016 in a move that appears to be pure political calculation by the Obama administration, akin to the EPA's dropped and censored groundwater contamination study in Weatherford, Texas.

Now, just days later, a damning study conducted by Duke University researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences again links shale gas fracking to groundwater contamination. The Duke researchers did so by testing samples of 141 drinking water samples in Pennsylvania's portion of the Marcellus Shale basin. 

This is the Duke professors' third study linking fracking to groundwater contamination, the source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of citizens in the Keystone State. The natural-gas industry is likely to come out with the familiar chorus that the contaminated water is "naturally occurring," but the latest Duke study shows otherwise. 

"They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well," a Duke University press release explains. "Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling."

Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and one of the study's co-authors, pointed to the the fact that some of the contaminated water samples exhibited the chemical signature of Marcellus Shale gas. 

"The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium content, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,” said Jackson. "In a minority of cases the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by poor well construction." 

The Duke study offers food-for-thought in the hours in the aftermath of President Obama's announcement of a climate change legislative plan at Georgetown University, and just a month after his Bureau of Land Management adopted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill for fracking-chemical fluid disclosure on public lands.

This was originally posted at DeSmogBlog.

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Steve Horn

Steve Horn is a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, Contributing Editor at CounterPunch and regulator contributor for TruthOut.

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