As we knew would happen soon, experts in the field of hydraulic fracturing (also called fracking) have made a public statement encouraging land owners to have the quality of their well water tested before allowing hydraulic fracturing to take place near their homes and/or wells.
Two experts on the gas drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, told a group of Pennsylvanians that they should have their private well waters tested before any drilling begins near their homes. Neglecting to have such testing performed could lead to problems if fracking contaminates their wells.
According to a report in the Citizen’s Voice, Peter Wulfhorst and Bryan Swistock, educators with Penn State Cooperative Extension, held a seminar in Luzerne County to discuss water quality issues related to fracking. If water contamination occurs within 1,000 of a drilling platform, Pennsylvania law presumes that drilling is the cause. As such, most drillers will volunteer to test wells within that area prior to beginning operations. Wulfhorst and Swistock said property owners should take the drillers up on such offers. Gas companies lose that presumption of guilt if property owners turn water testing down, Citizens Voice said.
The pair also said property owners should pay for their own testing if they can afford it. Such tests should look for barium, chloride, elevated levels of total dissolved solids, the pH factor, and methane. These chemicals are often associated with natural gas drilling. When a property owner commissions such tests, a lab employee or independent consultant should obtain the water samples and keep a copy of the chain-of-custody report.
According to Citizens Voice, Wulfhorst and Swistock also said there are some things property owners should look for after drilling commences that could indicate their well water has become contaminated. Water that “looks like Alka-Seltzer,” could contain methane, or if it leaves red stains it could have high iron levels.
The chemicals that make up that fracking fluid are cause for concern. They may include, among other things, barium, strontium, benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. All have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high. Thanks to a move by Congress in 2005, fracking is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act, so drillers don’t have to disclose what is contained in their fracking fluids. ( source )
So tell us, people… If the gas/oil company offers to perform testing on your well water before they begin fracking, why would you NOT take them up on the offer? The logic behind NOT taking them up on the offer just… isn’t there. In fact, the very idea of NOT taking a valuable service for FREE goes against the very tenets of human nature!
Now don’t get us wrong. If the oil/gas company offers to test the water THEMSELVES and does not SHARE the results — all of the results — with land owners, then land owners should consider having testing done on their own by a licensed, certified water testing service come out to the property, take well water samples, perform testing in an accredited laboratory in accordance with accepted testing procedures, and basically make sure the data obtained from the testing could get introduced in a court of law if needed down the road.
What if land owners have already allowed drilling to begin?
Certified testing can take place at ANY time and the results of that testing will serve as the point against which the results of all future testing will get compared. So again, make sure the testing gets done right the first time!
Can homeowners do any testing on their own?
Of course! The two fracking experts (note: We still chuckle each time we use the word ‘fracking’ in that manner) stated that land owners ought to keep an eye on several basic water parameters. Changes in pH, Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Iron, and/or Chloride levels may signify that aquifer contamination has occurred and that land owners ought to seriously consider having more in-depth testing of their well water performed.