Previously when we wrote about fracking (hydraulic fracturing) we stressed the importance of performing water quality testing on well water and ground water in the region before any fracking activity begins. Today we happily report that officials in the Sanford, NC area required baseline water quality test results get recorded before any gas companies could get permits to begin drilling.
Sanford, N.C. — Water-quality experts are testing people’s wells in Lee County to create a baseline that will help state regulators measure the environmental impact of natural gas drilling.
Teams from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science Center are fanning out across the county to assess the best places to test the groundwater. About 150 area homeowners have asked the USGS to test their wells, but officials said locations will be chosen based on scientific criteria.
“We haven’t sampled in this area since the 1960s, 1970s,” Melinda Chapman, a USGS groundwater specialist, said Wednesday.
State lawmakers are expected to consider legislation when they reconvene later this month that would allow gas drilling as quickly as 2014.
Environmental groups have expressed concern about the controversial drilling method of hydraulic fracturing, saying that they fear it could contaminate water sources in central North Carolina. ( source )
As with any water quality situation, having baseline water quality test results to compare newer test results against makes it much easier to ‘prove’ that fracking mining or other activities in a region have had a negative effect on the water quality.
While the exact reason for a change in water quality cannot always get pinpointed and/or assigned to a particular cause, not having before drilling test results to compare against makes it easier for gas and mining companies to deny that their activities in an area have anything to do with changes in the environment.
Basic tests well owners can perform on their own?
Do owners of private wells have to pay for (expensive) laboratory tests each and every time they want to check their well water for evidence of contamination by fracking? Only sophisticated laboratory testing can detect some of the chemicals contained in fracking fluid but simple tests for indicators of contamination do exist.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) – This basic test checks for the presence of dissolved solids in a water sample. Spikes in TDS readings may occur on a regular basis but prolonged spikes with no apparent cause (i.e. heavy rains, etc.) may serve as an indicator that a new contaminant has entered the water source.
Heavy Metals – Since drilling involves a large amount of metal in its operations monitoring the level of heavy metals in ground/well water near hydraulic fracturing activity makes a lot of sense.
Products like the SenSafe Heavy Metals Test Strip allow users to quickly and easily monitor a water source’s overall heavy metal content — without the need for complicated lab equipment, potentially hazardous reagents, etc.
pH & Alkalinity – Keeping an eye on a water source’s pH and alkalinity also aids in determining if hydraulic fracturing activity in a region has had an effect on water quality. Sharp, prolonged changes in pH and alkalinity may indicate the possible presence of unwanted chemicals in the water source.
Meters like the pH-200 Waterproof pH Meter make pH testing about as easy as it gets. For those unwilling to spend the money on a meter, you can also use more traditional methods like pH & Alkalinity Test Strips.
Moral of the story?
Establishing the quality level of well and ground water in Sanford, NC prior to any fracking activity begins may give homeowners a leg to stand on if the quality of their water suffers after hydraulic fracturing begins.
It may also provide the gas companies with the evidence they need to ‘prove’ that hydraulic fracturing did not affect the quality of water in the area.
A double-edged blade, yes, but in our opinion a necessary one for any region considering issuing hydraulic fracturing permits to gas companies.