New study finds fracking not contaminating groundwater

Fracking operation
Fracking operation | Jens Lambert/Shutterstock

A major university study on the impact of hydraulic fracturing indicates that this method of extracting natural gas is safe, a veterans group that advocates for energy independence said.

In the three-year University of Cincinnati (UC)  study, researchers examined water samples three to four times per year from 23 wells in the Utica shale region of Ohio.

“We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking," Dr. Amy Townsend-Small, one of the authors of the study, told residents of Carroll Country, a part of the Utica region.

"This is yet another study that shows hydraulic fracturing is safe," Brent Randolph, a U.S. Air Force veteran and volunteer chairman for Ohio's Vets4Energy chapter said.

“The evidence continues to mount that fracking is not only safe, it is a key component of increasing America's energy independence. That's not only good for our economy, it's a step toward, making us less dependent on dangerous foreign regimes to obtain oil."

The UC team, led by Townsend-Small, assistant professor of geology, identified sources for methane in Carroll County and two other areas of the country, by means of an analysis technique that consists of measuring carbon- and hydrogen-stable isotopes (isotopic composition).

This approach provides a signature indicating whether methane is coming from natural gas extraction (fracking), organic/biologic decay or the natural digestive processes of cattle, Townsend-Small said.

“Our results showed that levels of methane in groundwater did not change over the course of the study, and that groundwater in some areas has high levels of naturally occurring methane from soil or coal formations," Townsend-Small said in a statement. “In general, our work indicates that fracking does not always lead to groundwater contamination, but our data do not refute previous studies from Pennsylvania. We argue that monitoring programs are essential to investigating the link between water contamination and energy extraction.”

Townsend-Small defended the testing processes used in the study.

“This is an analysis technique that provides answers regarding key questions as to specific sources for methane emissions. With isotopic composition analysis, it’s possible to tell whether the source is fracking or biogenic processes (like bacterial decomposition in landfills or algae-filled water). It’s a laborious technique to implement, but its use makes it possible to trace and attribute the source of methane production.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) said eastern Ohio is at the epicenter of America’s energy resurgence, and that fracking has unlocked plentiful oil and gas resources here.

“Despite the job creation and the lowering of energy prices that we’ve seen firsthand, the Obama administration simply doesn’t like fracking," Johnson said. "In fact, they don't like fossil fuels at all. They’ve attempted to throw up roadblocks at every turn in order to please radical environmentalists, no matter what the real-world consequences are.”

Johnson defended current regulatory oversight of fracking.

“I am not saying there should be no oversight; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has safely regulated fracking here for over 60 years," Johnson said. “The people on the ground in Ohio, that live here and work here, are far better suited to monitor what is going on than nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Washington, D.C."

Organizations in this Story

U.S. Representative Bill Johnson (OH-6) University of Cincinnati Vets4Energy

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