Water Contamination

The gas industry insists that drilling using hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate water. This is simply not true. There are documented instances of water contamination because of natural gas hydro-fracturing operations.

“In the four-year period between June 2002 and June 2006, there were approximately 924 spills of oil and gas chemicals and wastes. Spilled products included: crude oil, condensate, produced water, and “other” products. The other products included diesel fuel, glycol, amine, lubricating oil, hydraulic fracturing fluids, drilling muds, other chemicals, and natural gas leaks.

Roughly estimated, 60% of the spills involved produced water; 34 % involved crude oil or condensate; and 12% involved spills of “other” substances. (Numbers add up to greater than 100% because some of the spills involved more than one type of fluid).

Of the 924 oil and gas industry spills, 20% of them contaminated water: 14% of the spills affected groundwater; and 6% of all spills affected surface water.” (SOURCE: Earthworks)

Methane Contamination

A Pittsburgh Geological Society’s article “Natural Gas Migration Problems in Western Pennsylvania” explains how contamination with methane can happen. Methane migration occurs when natural gas escapes “from the reservoir rock, coal seam, pipeline, gas well, or landfill.  If the gas migrates through the bedrock and soil, it can result in an explosion capable of damaging property and causing loss of life.”

Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing is a study of the the Marcellus and Utica shale formations of northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. This study shows that thermogenic methane (methane from deep within the earth) was found to have contaminated drinking water wells close to drilling sites and that this contamination was likely due to two possible reasons, leaky gas well casings or the process of hydraulic fracturing generates new fractures or enlarges existing ones above the target shale formation, increasing the connectivityof the fracture system. The reduced pressure following the fracturing activities could release methane in solution, allowing methane gas to potentially migrate upward through the fracture system.

We believe that systematic and independent data on groundwater quality, including dissolved-gas concentrations and isotopic compositions, should be collected before drilling operations begin in a region, as is already done in some states. Ideally, these data should be made available for public analysis, recognizing the privacy concerns that accompany this issue. Such baseline data would improve environmental safety, scientific knowledge, and public confidence. Similarly, long-term monitoring of groundwater and surface methane emissions during and after extraction would clarify the extent of problems and help identify the mechanisms behind them. Greater stewardship, knowledge, and—possibly—regulation are needed to ensure the sustainable future of shale-gas extraction.

Other documented cases of contaminated water: (SOURCE: The Environmental Dangers of Hydro-Fracturing the Marcellus Shale by Robert Myers, Ph.D. (Lock Haven University)

  • In April 2004, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) fined Encana Oil and Gas a record $371,200 for contaminating water supplies in West Divide Creek, Colorado.  COGCC found methane, benzene, toluene, and m,p xylenes in wells, and  blamed Encana  for “inadequate cementing of the well,” which “resulted in a loss of well control” (COGGC, “West Divide Creek Gas Seep” (4/14/04), COGCC, “Notice of Hearing” [8/04]).
  • In December 2007 The basement of a home in Bainbridge Township, Ohio exploded.  19 area homes were evacuated because of natural gas.  The Report by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (9/1/08) concluded that the explosion and contamination was caused by “inadequate cementing of the production casing” by the drilling company, Ohio Valley Energy Systems, which led to migration of natural gas into natural fractures in the bedrock below the drilling casing.
  • In February 2009 Cabot Oil & Gas was responsible for methane contamination of nine water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania.  Methane built up in the well of Norma Fiorentio and when the pump switched on, it blew up the concrete foundation of the well house  (PA DEP “Notice of Violation” [2/27/09]).  The Pennsylvania DEP has blamed the problems on “defective casing and cementing” (DEP, “DEP Reaches Agreement” [11/04/09]).  On April 15, 2010 the DEP fined Cabot $240,000 for violating the November agreement and suspended their drilling operations in PA until they resolve the Dimock contamination (DEP, “DEP Takes Aggressive Action” [4/15/10]).  Recently, the DEP and Cabot came to a settlement, whereby Cabot will pay $4.1 million to the residents of Dimock and $500,000 to the state to offset the costs associated with investigating this incident.  This settlement does not affect the federal lawsuits that the residents of Dimock have filed, but some residents believe that Cabot is trying to use it to scuttle the lawsuit  (DEP, “Dimock Residents” [12/16/10], dailyreview.com “Dimock Residents” [12/18/10]).
  • In April 2011, the DEP ordered Catalyst Energy to cease all drilling and hydro-fracturing operations in 36 of its non-Marcellus wells in Forest County, PA.  The DEP confirmed that two private water supplies had been contaminated by natural gas migration and elevated levels of iron and manganese (DEP, “DEP Orders Catalyst” [4/4/11]).
  • In May 2011, the DEP fined Chesapeake Energy $900,000 for contaminating wells in Bradford County.  DEP determined that because of improper well casing and cementing in shallow zones, natural gas from non-shale shallow gas formations had experienced localized migration into groundwater and contaminated 16 families’ drinking water supplies (DEP, “DEP Fines Chesapeake” [5/17/11]).
  • The Scranton Times-Tribune has reported that DEP records suggest ongoing problems with the cement casings that are the best protection against methane migration (Times-Tribune, “DEP Inspections” [9/18/11]).

Other Spill and Accidents That Have Contaminated Water

Water can be contaminated in other ways. In fact the very process of fracking requires millions of gallons of water to be contaminated by toxic chemicals and pumped into the ground, much of it to be taken out of the water cycle forever. If that intentional contamination weren’t enough, there are accidents that occur during the transport and injection of fracking fluid.

Documented cases of contaminated water: (SOURCE: The Environmental Dangers of Hydro-Fracturing the Marcellus Shale by Robert Myers, Ph.D. (Lock Haven University)

  • On February 2, 2009 Cabot spilled 100 gallons of diesel fuel at Dimock, PA (DEP, “2009 Marcellus Violations–violation #575007“; iStockAnalyist, “Trucking Firm Ordered” [2/24/09]).
  • In May 2009 a leaking waste water pipe from a Range Resources gas well polluted a tributary of Cross Creek Lake in Washington County, PA.  The spill killed fish, salamanders, crayfish, and aquatic insects (Pittsburgh Post GazetteWaste from Marcellus” [6/05/09]; DEP, “2009 Marcellus Violations–violation #564165“;  Range Resouces Report).
  • On October 22, 2009, PA DEP fined Cabot $56,650 for three separate spills of a water/liquid gel mixture into Stevens Creek and a wetland near Dimock, PA.  The spills totaled 8,000 gallons (DEP, “DEP Fines Cabot” [10/22/09]; DEP “2009 Marcellus Violations–violations #572252, 572258“).
  • On January 20, 2010 the Pennsylvania DEP fined M.R. Dirt $6000 for spilling 7 tons of “gaswell drilling wastewater sludge” in Avis, PA.  The dump truck driver drove away even though he saw the spill (DEP “DEP Fines M.R. Dirt” [1/20/10]).
  • On February 1, 2010 the Pennsylvania DEP fined Fortuna Energy $3500 for various infractions at a Bradford County site, including the discharge of fracking fluid into a tributary of Sugar Creek (DEP, “DEP Fines Fortuna“  [2/1/10]; DEP “2009 Marcellus Violations–violations #565284-87, 564580-88, 569257-61“).
  • On March 15, 2010, a foamy substance, was detected running into Pine Creek, near Waterville.  The DEP has determined that the substance was Airfoam HD, a chemical used in the drilling process.  The substance came from a drilling site run by Pennsylvania General Energy.  Almost a year later, the DEP fined the company $28, 960 (DEP, “DEP Fines“; “2010 Marcellus Violations–violations #583315-38“).
  • On March 26th, 2010, Anadarko Petroleum spilled 8,000 to 12,000 gallons of synthetic-based mud at a drilling site in the Sproul State Forest in Clinton County (DEP, “2010 Marcellus Violations–violations #583988, 584932, 584934“; LH Express, “Drilling Mud” [4/9/10]).
  • On March 31, 2010 a site in Washington Country that was being used to collect wastewater by Atlas Energy caught fire (WPXI.com, “Fire Near Hopewell” [3/31/10]).
  • On April 23, 2010, The Pennsylvania DEP fined Stallion Oilfield Services of Canondale, PA $6,500 for operating an illegal fracking water transfer station.  Inspectors found a 450 square foot area where fracking water had spilled onto the ground (DEP, “DEP Fines Stallion” [4/23/10]).
  • On May 13, 2010, PA DEP fined Rex Energy of State College, PA $45,000 for various environmental violations at its Clearfield County site (DEP, “DEP Fines Rex” [5/13/10]; DEP, “2010 Marcellus Violations–violations #595298-99, 583061“).
  • On May 14, 1010, PA DEP fined Range Resources $141,175 for spilling 250 barrels of fracking fluid into a high-quality waterway in Washington County in October 2009.  Range failed to report the spill immediately (DEP, “DEP Penalizes Range” [5/14/10]; DEP “2009 Marcellus Violations–violations #573283-4, 574350“).
  • On June 15, 2010, Anadarko Petroleum discharged 150 gallons of hydraulic fluid onto the ground at a drilling site in Centre County (DEP, “2010 Marcellus Violations–violations #589566, 589952“)
  • On June 3, 2010, a gas well that was being fracked by EOG Resources in Clearfield County experienced a blowout and raged out of control for 16 hours, shooting fracking fluid and gas 75 feet into the air.  EOG, whose spokesperson insisted that protecting the environment is of “utmost importance” to the company, waited five hours before contacting the Department of Environmental Protection (Centre Daily Times, “Gas Spews” [6/4/10]).  The PA DEP has determined that the accident was caused by “untrained personnel and the failure to use proper well control procedures,” and they fined EOG and its contractor C.C. Forbes $400,000 (DEP, “Independent Report” [7/13/10] DEP, “2010 Marcellus Violations–violations #589126-31, 589901-02“).
  • On July 1, 2010, the PA Department of Agriculture quarantined 28 cows after they came into contact with drilling wastewater from a leaking containment pond that was part of a drilling site operated by East Resources in Tioga County (DEP, “Cattle from Tioga County” [7/1/10]; DEP, “2010 Marcellus Violations–violations #588949-50“).
  • On August 2, 2010, the DEP fined Talisman Energy USA $15,506 for spilling 4,200-6,300 gallons of used fracking fluid into an unnamed tributary of the Tioga River in Bradford County (DEP, “DEP Fines Talisman” [8/2/10]; DEP “2009 Marcellus Violations–violations #5777167, 577585-87“).
  • On August 17, 2010, the DEP fined Atlas Resources $97,350 for allowing used fracking fluid to overflow a waste water pit and contaminate a tributary of Dunkle Run, a high quality watershed in Washington County.  Atlas failed to report the spill to DEP (DEP, “DEP Fines Atlas” [8/17/10]; DEP “2009 Marcellus Violations–violations #577286-92“).
  • On October 7, 2010, the DEP fined Seneca Resources $40,000 for building an illegal impoundment on exceptional value wetlands in Tioga County (DEP, “DEP Fines Seneca” [10/7/10]).
  • On October 25-27, 2010, the Pennsylvania State Police inspected 1175 fracking wastewater trucks as part of Operation FracNet.  They issued 1057 traffic citations, and removed 207 trucks and 52 drivers from service due to safety violations.  Earlier FracNets yielded similar results: in September 959 citations were issued, and 208 trucks and 64 drivers were removed; in June 2010 669 citations were issued, and 250 trucks and 45 drivers were removed.  In March of 2011 731 trucks were inspected: 131 trucks and 14 drivers were removed (PA State Police, “Latest Operation FracNet” [11/09/10]; “State Police Place” [10/6/10]; “State Enforcement Blitz” [6/23/10]; DEP, “131 Trucks“).
  • On November 22, 2010, the DEP announced that it was investigating a large spill of “produced water” at a site run by XTO Energy.  The spill has been estimated to be 4,275 gallons, which contaminated a unnamed tributary of Sugar Run.  A DEP investigator discovered an open valve that was discharging the fluid from an unattended tank. (DEP, “DEP Investigating” [11/22/10]; Williamsport Sun Gazette, “Cleanup Continues” [12/15/10]; Ft. Worth Star-TelegramExxon Mobile Updates” [11/24/11]).
  • On January 6, 2011, the DEP fined Talisman Energy $24,608 for a “large diesel fuel spill” in Bradford County (DEP “DEP Fines Talisman” [1/6/11]).
  • On January 7, 2011, the DEP fined Chief Oil & Gas $34,000 for illegally discharging 25,200 gallons of hydrostatic testing water at a pipeline project in Lycoming County.  Chief also allowed “an unknown industrial waste” to mix with the water before it was discharged (DEP, “Chief Oil and Gas” [1/7/11]).
  • On January 10, 2011, Minuteman Environmental Services was fined $7000 for illegally dumping and storing natural gas drill cutting waste at two sites in Clinton and Union counties (DEP, “DEP Announced” [1/10/11]).
  • On January 17, 2011, a well operated by Talisman Energy blew out and for several hours discharged sand and fracking fluid into state forest lands in Tioga County (timestribune.com, “Talisman Cited” [1/26/11]).
  • On January 29, 2011, a truck carrying used fracking fluid from a well operated by Anadarko Petroleum, rolled off the road and spilled “a small amount” of fracking fluid above the headwaters of the South Renovo water supply in Clinton County (LH Express, “Frac Water Truck” [2/1/11]).  On February 18, 2011, a truck serving another Anadarko well in Clinton County crashed and spilled 3400 gallons of used fracking fluid into the yard of a private residence (LH Express, “3,400 Gallons” [2/22/11].
  • On February 23, 2011, three condensate separator tanks at a Chesapeake site in Washington County caught fire, injuring three subcontractors.  Chesapeake was later fined $188,000 for improper handling and management of condensate (DEP “DEP Continues” [2/25/11], “DEP Fines Chesapeake” [5/17/11], photo at upstreamonline, “Blast at Chesapeake Site” [2/24/11]).
  • On March 23, 2010, the DEP shut down Chesapeake’s operations at a well pad in Potter County.  Chesapeake failed to implement erosion and sediment controls, resulting in sediment/silt discharges into a tributary of the Galeton Borough Water Authority (DEP, “DEP Shuts Down” [3/23/11]).
  • On June 28, 2011, the DEP fined Chief Oil & Gas $180,000 for a hydraulic oil spill and an improperly maintained drilling pit at a well in Somerset County (DEP, “DEP Fines Chief” [6/28/11].
  • On July 29, August 2, and August 10, 2011 Laser Northeast Gathering Company spilled 1500 gallons of drilling mud into Laurel Lake Creek in Susquehanna County as they attempted to construct a natural gas pipeline (pressconnects.com, “1500 Gallons” [8/10/11]).
  • On October 7, 2011, a production unit exploded at an Anadarko well site in Lycoming County (Williamsport Gazette, “No One Hurt” [10/8/11]).


The Environmental Dangers of Hydro-Fracturing the Marcellus Shale by Robert Myers, Ph.D. (Lock Haven University)

Natural Gas Migration Problems in Western Pennsylvania

What is in the fracking fluid?

Well, its just water, right? Well, mostly, but being 99% water doesn’t make it safe. Add a drop of arsenic to a glass of water, then just think about drinking it. It’s mostly water, right? But now its 99% water and 100% poison. The same is true of fracking fluid. What could be in it? Click the link below.

Between 2005 and 2009, the hydraulic fracturing companies used 95 products containing
13 different carcinogens.

The absence of a minimum national baseline for disclosure of fluids injected during the hydraulic fracturing process and the exemption of most hydraulic fracturing injections from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act has left an informational void concerning the contents, chemical concentrations, and volumes of fluids that go into the ground during fracturing operations and return to the surface in the form of wastewater. As a result, regulators and the public are unable effectively to assess any impact the use of these fluids may have on the environment or public health. (SOURCE: UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE, CHEMICALS USED IN HYDRAULIC FRACTURING)