A study from Duke University found no evidence that groundwater is threatened by horizontal gas drilling. Surface water might be another story.
Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, said in a news release that “consistent evidence from comprehensive testing” found no indication of groundwater pollution resulting from shale gas drilling operations.
112 drinking wells were sampled over a 3-year period in northwestern West Virginia. Researchers used a combination of tracers deployed before and after gas wells were installed. They report regional geology, operator practices, conditions, and time are contributing factors.
“What we found in the study area in West Virginia after three years may be different from what we see after 10 years, because the impact on groundwater isn’t necessarily immediate,” Vengosh said.
The report does highlight surface water concerns. Authors note there’s evidence of impacted streams in areas of intense drilling, and that those impacts likely come from spilled wastewater.
Funding of the peer-reviewed study came from the National Science Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Duke University worked with Ohio State, Penn State, and Stanford universities as well as the French Geological Survey to complete the study which was published this week in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.