New Peer Reviewed Study: Elevated levels of methanol and heavy metals may be from fracking in Texas, Water contamination highest near frack sites

Water wells near gas drilling more likely to have heavy metals, study finds by Dallas News, August 2, 2013
Private water wells near natural gas drilling in North Texas’ Barnett Shale gas field are more likely to be contaminated with heavy metals than those farther from gas operations, a study at the University of Texas at Arlington has found.

Water contamination highest near natural gas drilling by TXSharon, July 26, 2013, Bluedaze
Breaking but not surprising. Levels of contaminants are highest within 3 kilometers which is 1.8 miles! Areas outside the Barnett Shale do not have the same elevated levels. [Emphasis added]

[Encana and regulator tests on the Ernst well water show the chromium went up by factor of 45 and the barium and strontium doubled after Encana frac’d directly into the aquifer that supplies the Ernst well.]

Elevated levels of heavy metals may be from fracking in Texas by The Associated Press, 26 July, 2013, Tyler Morning Telegraph
Elevated levels for most of the metals were not found outside active drilling areas or outside the shale.

Potential well water contaminants highest near natural gas drilling, UT Arlington Study says Press Release by UT Arlington, July 26, 2013
A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug. … Environmental Science & Technology Thursday. The peer-reviewed paper focuses on the presence of metals such as arsenic, barium, selenium and strontium in water samples. Many of these heavy metals occur naturally at low levels in groundwater, but disturbances from natural gas extraction activities could cause them to occur at elevated levels.

Researchers gathered samples from private water wells of varying depth within a 13 county area in or near the Barnett Shale in North Texas over four months in the summer and fall of 2011. Ninety-one samples were drawn from what they termed “active extraction areas,” or areas that had one or more gas wells within a five kilometer radius. Another nine samples were taken from sites either inside the Barnett Shale and more than 14 kilometers from a natural gas drilling site, or from sites outside the Barnett Shale altogether. The locations of those sites were referred to as “non-active/reference areas” in the study. Researchers accepted no outside funding to ensure the integrity of the study. They compared the samples to historical data on water wells in these counties from the Texas Water Development Board groundwater database for 1989-1999, prior to the proliferation of natural gas drilling.

On average, researchers detected the highest levels of these contaminants within 3 kilometers of natural gas wells, including several samples that had arsenic and selenium above levels considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, 29 wells that were within the study’s active natural gas drilling area exceeded the EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Limit of 10 micrograms per liter for arsenic, a potentially dangerous situation. The areas lying outside of active drilling areas or outside the Barnett Shale did not show the same elevated levels for most of the metals.

Scientists note in the paper that they did not find uniformity among the contamination in the active natural gas drilling areas. In other words, not all gas well sites were associated with higher levels of the metals in well water.

Some of the most notable results were on the following heavy metals:
Arsenic occurs naturally in the region’s water and was detected in 99 of the 100 samples. But, the concentrations of arsenic were significantly higher in the active extraction areas compared to non-extraction areas and historical data. The maximum concentration from an extraction area sample was 161 micrograms per liter, or 16 times the EPA safety standard set for drinking water. According to the EPA, people who drink water containing arsenic well in excess of the safety standard for many years “could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.”

Selenium was found in 10 samples near extraction sites, and all of those samples showed selenium levels were higher than the historical average. Two samples exceeded the standard for selenium set by the EPA. Circulation problems as well as hair or fingernail loss are some possible consequences of long-term exposure to high levels of selenium, according to the EPA.

Strontium was also found in almost all the samples, with concentrations significantly higher than historical levels in the areas of active gas extraction. A toxicological profile by the federal government’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recommends no more than 4,000 micrograms of strontium per liter in drinking water. Seventeen samples from the active extraction area and one from the non-active areas exceeded that recommended limit. Exposure to high levels of stable strontium can result in impaired bone growth in children, according to the toxic substances agency.

The paper also recommends further research on levels of methanol and ethanol in water wells. Twenty-nine private water wells in the study contained methanol, with the highest concentrations in the active extraction areas. Twelve samples, four of which were from the non-active extraction sites, contained measurable ethanol. Both ethanol and methanol can occur naturally or as a result of industrial contamination. Historical data on methanol and ethanol was not available, researchers said in the paper.

Many from the research team are now conducting well water sampling in the Permian Basin region of Texas, establishing a baseline set of data prior to gas well drilling activities there. That baseline will be used for a direct comparison to samples that will be collected during and after upcoming natural gas extraction. The team hopes that these efforts will shed further light on the relationship between natural gas extraction and ground water quality. [Emphasis added]

Methanol on frac truck near Cochrane, Alberta, November 2011

Fracking study: Researchers find elevated levels of heavy metals by Associated Press, July 26, 2013,
Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington say there are elevated levels of arsenic and other heavy metals close to natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale area of North Texas, according to a news release from the school Friday. Several scenarios — including disturbances from fracking, lower water tables from drought, removal of water used for fracking or industrial accidents such as faulty gas well casings — could release the dangerous compounds into shallow groundwater. … Arsenic, barium, strontium and selenium occur naturally at low levels in groundwater. But the release says fracking activities could elevate their levels. The results from the peer-reviewed study were published online by the journal Environmental Science & Technology. … Samples were gathered from 100 private water wells of varying depths within a 13-county area in or near the Barnett Shale during four months in summer and fall of 2011.

Additionally, the paper recommended further research on methanol and ethanol levels in water wells after 29 of the 100 wells in the study contained methanol. The highest concentrations were in the areas of fracking activity. The samples were compared to historical data on water wells from the Texas Water Development Board groundwater database for 1989-1999, before natural gas drilling activity ramped up. [Emphasis added]

An evaluation of water quality in private drinking water wells near natural gas extraction sites in the Barnett Shale Formation by Brian E Fontenot, Laura R Hunt, Zacariah Louis Hildenbrand, Doug D Carlton, Hyppolite Oka, Jayme L Walton, Dan Hopkins, Alexandra Osorio, Bryan Bjorndal, Qinhong Hu, and Kevin Albert Schug in Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript • DOI: 10.1021/es4011724 • Publication Date (Web): 25 Jul 2013

[Refer also to:

Heavy metals: Study links water contamination to fracking by Rachel Morgan, Shale reporter, November 3, 2012, The Times Online
In its analysis of residential drinking water, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is not reporting all the chemicals discovered in test results, claiming that the substances simply aren’t related to wastewater from commercial gas drilling. But a 3-year-old study, in which the state DEP participated, links those unreported chemicals with flowback water from the practice of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

FrackingCanada The Science is Deafening: Industry’s Gas Migration

“An Engineering and Materials Testing firm in Alberta recommends that dissolved methane, barium and strontium are added tests to the government standard because they are indicators of methane gas migration into water wells.” ]

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