A few years ago I did a paper: Potential Leaks From High Pressure Hydro-Fracking of Shale, James L. Chip Northrup, September 8, 2010 about how, under the right conditions, a frack could go “out of zone” and contaminate an aquifer by hitting a natural fault. We even did some illustrations to show how this would happen. That elicited responses from the now familiar grab bag of fracking apologist geologist who said that it would be impossible for that to happen because – blah, blah, blah.
Obviously, under the right conditions – it could happen – and it has happened, as the EPA tests just confirmed. The way it happened in Wyoming is fairly straightforward – the shale gas is close enough to the aquifer that when a frack goes out of zone, it can penetrate the aquifer above it, polluting it with gas and frack fluids. Propane and ethane are not “naturally occurring” in groundwater.
“Several different hydrocarbon gasses, including methane, ethane, propane, and several higher molecular weight compounds, were detected in the groundwater-quality samples.” – pg 20.
And the USGS confirmed the EPA results with their own tests:
USGS backs EPA assessment of Wyoming well water
September 28, 2012
A reassessment of a controversial report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed some of the agency’s findings, indicating the possibility that wells in Pavillion, Wyoming, could have been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Geological Survey released its own study of the wells tested by the EPA. Though it did not draw any conclusions from its assessments, the agency confirmed that it did find the same types of contaminants in the water that can be associated with fracking, including methane, ethane and phenol.
This is what happened to the Fentons, a ranching family we met at a conference in Colorado. We were both speaking at the conference and we stayed at the same lodge. John Fenton and I went for a walk one day and he told me how deep his water wells were (pretty deep) – and how deep the shale was (fairly shallow). They were too close for comfort – any errant frack could ruin his water – and it did.
So Encana proved the “impossible” – a frack can indeed go into a water bearing strata – either on its own or via a localized naturally occuring fault – and once that happens, there’s not a fracking thing you can do about it – except sue the frackers – which is what the Fentons did.
Of course, if you have a very shallow water well, there are much more effective ways to gas it in Pennsylvania. Even if you live next to Truthland star, Shelly DePue.
Diesel in Water Near Fracking Confirm EPA Tests
A retest of water in Pavillion, Wyoming, found evidence of many of the same gases and compounds the Environmental Protection Agency used to link contamination there to hydraulic fracturing, the first finding of that kind.
A U.S. Geological Survey report on its water testing of one monitoring well near the rural Wyoming town — where some residents complain that gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing contaminated their drinking supplies — identified levels of methane, ethane, diesel compounds and phenol, which the EPA had also identified in its report last year.
The latest data are “generally consistent,” with the agency’s finding, Alisha Johnson, an EPA spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The USGS said it didn’t interpret the results, which were given to state officials.
The EPA’s draft report in December was the first U.S. government finding to link hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and water contamination.
“At a quick glance, these results appear consistent with the earlier EPA study,” Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University, said in an e-mail. “The stray gas concentrations are very high, not only for methane but especially for ethane and propane. That combination suggests a fossil-fuel source for the gases.”
The EPA has also retested water in Pavillion, including at homeowners’ wells, and hasn’t released those results. It has briefed the owners.
“The recommendation still stands that we don’t cook or drink our water,” John Fenton, a farmer there, said in an interview, describing a recent conversation he had with EPA officials. The results “are running pretty much the same as they have in the past.”
Encana, based in Calgary, owns 140 natural-gas wells in an area of cattle and hay farms outside of Pavillion, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) northeast of Salt Lake City. The company argued that contaminants found in water wells are naturally occurring, and the two test wells that the EPA drilled in 2010 were improperly constructed.