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Duke Study Links Fracking to Water Contamination as EPA Drops Study on Fracking Water Contamination

June 27, 2013

Duke Study Links Fracking to Water Contamination As EPA Drops Study on Fracking Water Contamination

This article by Steve Horn is reposted from DeSmogBlog, June 24th 2013:

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) kicked the can down the road on a key study designated to examine the connection betweenhydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming.

A study originally scheduled for release in 2014 and featured in Josh Fox’s “Gasland 2,” it will not be complete until 2016 in a move that appears to be purely politically calculated by the Obama Administration, akin to the EPA’s dropped and censored groundwater contamination study in Weatherford, TX.

Now, just days later, a damning study conducted by Duke University researchers published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences again links shale gas fracking to groundwater contamination. The Duke researchers did so by testing samples of 141 drinking water samples of Pennsylvania’s portion of the Marcellus Shale basin.

This is the Duke professor’s third study linking fracking to groundwater contamination, the source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of citizens in the Keystone State. The industry is likely to come out with the familiar chorus that the contaminated water is “naturally occuring,” but the latest Duke study shows otherwise.

“They found that, on average, methane concentrations were six times higher and ethane concentrations were 23 times higher at homes within a kilometer of a shale gas well,” a Duke University press release explains. “Propane was detected in 10 samples, all of them from homes within a kilometer of drilling.”

Robert Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and one of the study’s co-authors, pointed to the the fact that some of the contaminated water samples exhibited the chemical signature of Marcellus Shale gas.

“The methane, ethane and propane data, and new evidence from hydrocarbon and helium content, all suggest that drilling has affected some homeowners’ water,” said Jackson. “In a minority of cases the gas even looks Marcellus-like, probably caused by poor well construction.”

The Duke study offers food-for-thought in the hours leading up to President Obama’s forthcoming announcement of a climate change legislative plan at Georgetown University, just a month after his Bureau of Land Management adoptedthe American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on public lands.

Photo Credit: ShutterStock | Aaron Amat

Read the full post on DeSmogBlog, with Comments, here.


  1. June 28, 2013 12:36 pm

    Here is the gas industry’s response. This will convince many that the Duke study has its own bias.

    I do think the whole issue of dueling studies is a blind alley for our advocacy. We need to be ramping up citizen monitors of water and air so that our grassroots folks have the tools to fight the industry where they live, with their passionate defense of their homes. Gas companies can always deflect academic studies, but will have a harder time dealing with a person living on the shale that has a valid pre-test of their water and air, and the means to test again when the drilling comes near to them.

  2. Iris Marie Bloom permalink
    June 29, 2013 7:56 pm

    Are you saying we shouldn’t put it out to the world when good strong science confirms large-scale methane migration into drinking water supplies from Marcellus Shale gas drilling? I disagree on two counts. One, the industry’s predictable attack on good science is weak and unconvincing. In fact their attack is so weak that they spend most of the time simply avoiding the findings about methane and ethane altogether! And their attack shows that they feel, rightly, very threatened by this good solid science.

    Two, it’s not an either-or situation. We don’t control or fund universities! When they choose to do an important study like this, it certainly doesn’t take away from citizen monitoring to simply publicize the study; to bother to read and understand it in order to defend it against unsupported, intentionally obfuscating critique is worth a few hours of time for those of us that find it interesting (not everyone does and that’s fine). I’m all for citizen monitoring but unfortunately as we’ve seen, the gas industry can silence people with good data over and over through out of court settlements and non-disclosure clauses. In fact individuals are easier for the industry to deflect than large institutions like Duke or Cornell working for the common good with independent research. So we need both these tools and more.

    It’s like a toolbox. We would never throw out the screwdriver just because a hammer is better for a particular task. We need them all. Ultimately none of these tools is as powerful as personal commitment, word of mouth, political will, drive, and vision, which are in growing abundance in our movement thanks to people like you, Stephen!


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