Gas Drilling and Private Wells – Baseline Water Analysis

There has been a significant amount of media attention being given to natural gas drilling and how it may be adversely affecting groundwater, specifically drinking water wells. The question of whether or not hydrologic fracturing causes groundwater contamination still remains unclear as the EPA and various groups grapple with mountains of data. While the EPA will be slow to move in establishing regulations with regards to hydrofracturing (AKA fracking) and water protection; individual states are taking action and establishing regulations aimed at protecting their drinking water sources including wastewater discharges into surface water that is used for drinking water. If you are in an area where fracking is inevitable due to forced pooling and high pressure tactics, it’s important to take steps to protect your drinking water source, especially if you have a private well because it can affect property values and your quality of life. A drill site nearby can mean high levels of noise early and late. Increased truck and equipment traffic on neighborhood streets and air quality are becoming bigger concerns. Make sure a lawyer reviews the lease to address these concerns in your land lease if that is applicable. With all that being said, natural gas is a largely untapped energy resource in the United States and with proper regulation and oversight, it could be done with minimal impact on our environment.
This discussion will focus on what homeowners should consider when they are faced with fracking occurring in their neighborhood, and want to have their private well tested in order to establish a legal baseline. The first thing to consider is the water quality. Do you have past results including those from treatment dealers which will be helpful in determining any existing problems with the water, including hardness and mineral content including calcium and magnesium as well as iron, manganese and hydrogen sulfide. You want to document these levels as drilling activities may increase these levels thus making the water highly unpalatable. Additionally, you should look for the major indicators of frack water, which includes total dissolved solids (TDS), sodium, chloride, bromide and other contaminants known to be present. The frack water can also contain high levels of uranium, strontium and other radiologicals presence, but these contaminants can start to add significant costs to your tests. Additionally, you may also consider adding a volatile organic chemical scan, which looks for the major components of gasoline including BTEX (Benzene, Toluene Ethyl benzene and Xylene) which may be of concern due to the use of heavy equipment and trucks in the area.
Another factor to consider is that the sample should be collected by an independent party who is trained in proper collection procedures. It is important that the samples are collected in proper bottles and meet the requirements of the testing methods, which include having the sample collected in proper bottle with preservatives which can include hydrochloric acid. The samples need to arrive at the lab so they can be analyzed within the proper holding time and meet the preservation requirements which also includes keeping the samples cool (usually within 2- 6 ? C depending on the analysis). Proper paperwork should accompany the sample to ensure proper chain of custody.
We offer a variety of testing packages based on various state requirements. Additionally, we do have sample collectors in certain areas and can assist with coordinating sampling in some areas. Call 1-800-458-3330 to discuss your specific testing needs. We would love to hear from you on this topic, if you have experiences you would like to share or further questions, post them and we will respond. My next couple of posts will delve deeper into the various state regulations surrounding fracking and how they pertain to water quality.

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