Study reveals Pa. water quality aligns with historic data

Researchers from Syracuse University recently compared pre-drilling water-quality data of groundwater in the Appalachian Basin to historical groundwater data from northeastern Pennsylvania and found that the oil and gas industry had not adversely affected water quality in the commonwealth.

Hydrogeology professor Don Siegel and his colleagues examined and interpreted 13,040 analyses from pre-drilling groundwater samples taken by the Chesapeake Energy Corporation from domestic water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania and 8,004 samples from water wells in southwest Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and north-central West Virginia.

They then compared their findings to historical groundwater data from northeastern Pennsylvania, which was gathered before most unconventional shale gas development began, and found no broad changes in chemical quality.

The study noted that while overall results were positive—good news for consumers and industry alike—it is not out of the realm of possibility for isolated incidents of water contamination to occur from drilling operations or fluid spills.

“It is imperative that all measures necessary to protect our valuable water resources be taken in order to meet our society's energy needs while protecting the environment,” David Yoxtheimer, of the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, recently wrote in response to the study's findings. 

The full study, entitled “Pre-drilling water-quality data of groundwater prior to shale gas drilling in the Appalachian Basin: Analysis of the Chesapeake Energy Corporation dataset,” will be published in the December issue of the Applied Geochemistry journal. 

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