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High-Tech Gas Drilling Is Fouling Drinking Water

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the sometimes-you-have-to-roll-a-hard-six dept.

Earth 390

sciencehabit writes "Drilling for natural gas locked deep in a shale formation — a process known as fracking — has seriously contaminated shallow groundwater supplies beneath far northeastern Pennsylvania with flammable methane. That's the conclusion of a new study, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The analysis gives few clues, however, to how pervasive such contamination might be across the wide areas of the Northeast United States, Texas, and other states where drilling for shale gas has taken off in recent years."

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390 comments

but but (2, Informative)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081180)

but but Regulation is bad... m'kay?

Re:but but (5, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081200)

The terms "water pollution" and "risk to human health" are so very anti-business and job-killing. We prefer to say that the invisible hand is incentivizing the purchase of bottled water at the present time...

Re:but but (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081254)

It's easy enough to blame fracturing, but the process of fracturing itself is occurring deep within some producing formation. The Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania is a mile underneath the surface. If there's natural gas in the water table then it's the improper disposal of recovered fluids that is causing it, not the fracturing process. This water is supposed to be pumped back into some deep reservoir or trucked off to evaporation ponds.

Re:but but (0, Troll)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081284)

Ah, the good old "nature done it" explanation. At least it's a step up from the "God done it" explanation of intelligent design advocates.

Re:but but (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081342)

How do you get "nature done it" from "improper disposal"?

Really quite curious.

Re:but but (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081358)

Gravity

Re:but but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081472)

Um no...gravity is only a factor if you have a negligent or intentionally corrupt person build your evaporation pond. He wasn't claiming nature he was instead implying that folks weren't following industry practices to prevent contamination which carries with it the question how are you going to get them to follow regulations if they're corrupt already. Put some of these bad operators out of business/in prison and let those doing the process right continue would be a much smarter play than just passing regulation that drives the cost of the good operators up and that the bad operators ignore. It has to be more expensive to do it wrong than it is to do it right before the "bad operators" will comply.

Re:but but (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081324)

Thankfully, you can save money on maintenance and improve evaporation pond efficiency if you don't bother to actually make sure that the impermeable liner of the pond is impermeable... Win-Win, baby!

Re:but but (5, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081674)

Let's face it, SOME aspect of the fracturing process, whether it be frac water dumping, well casing failure (gotta get that pressurized water down there somehow), or the (far less likely but not yet confirmed to be impossible) slight possibility those fractures are of much greater extent than expected, is contaminating wells on a widespread basis.

The gas companies deny it's happening and still say fracking is "safe" - whenever a water well starts producing methane the gas company claims it's naturally occuring biogenic methane. Really, do you expect ANYONE to believe that multiple wells across the country which been producing clean drinking water for decades suddenly got contaminated with methane-producing bacteria within 1-2 years of fracking operations commencing nearby?

I live on top of the Marcellus, so I've been following the situation pretty closely (and yeah, I've watched GASLAND - scary material and one of the reasons I'm pro-nuclear - that industry has a far better track record in the USA and constantly strives to improve safety. Gas companies say they're safe when they clearly are not, and refuse to make any improvements.)

Re:but but (3, Funny)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081264)

"Bottled in Scranton, Pennsylvania"

Look at the bright side, maybe you can really run your car on 'water' now

Re:but but (1)

Flyerman (1728812) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081608)

It's a pain to drive all the way to Pennsy to get the proper octane levels though....

Re:but but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081322)

Ya'll so funny. There is a legitimate place for regulation in any society. Regulation can protect the public and legitimate business interests from fraudulent (or ignorant) activity. The problem is when politicians see regulation as a loophole to insert themselves into every corner of the market. You could fill volumes with the regulations that serve no real purpose other than to make it harder to do business (or to serve some political interest).

Re:but but (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081410)

Yes, public safety is the BEST subject for regulation. All others are optional.

Re:but but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081546)

Regulation by folks (politicians) who don't understand what they're regulating is almost always the problem. Human endeavor is so complex these days that the idea of regulation but a bunch of lay people is laughable. The aim of regulation ought to be to invert the cost/value proposition for doing things wrong such that it is more expensive to cut corners (regardless of outcome) than it is to do it right even to the extreme point that it shouldn't be economically viable to do it wrong. If that happens then the companies will do the right thing. If not the economics will put them out of business in short order.

Unfortunately our idea of regulation is that we pass a bunch of rules and a bureaucracy to oversee them which usually understands little or nothing of the details on the ground. What happens in this case is that almost no one goes out of business because the process is so heavy it can't pull the trigger when needed. The good guys make a best effort but the regulation is so complex they inevitably fail to achieve 100% compliance and their costs go up for very little value while the bad guys just do what they want and get away with it because the bureaucracy is generally ineffective at enforcement due to mentioned complexity and loopholes.

The answer isn't more regulation or new regulation but rather a complete rethink of what it means to regulate with an eye toward effectiveness at controlling corporate behavior rather than building up a regulatory agency that I can staff with my friends and donors.

Re:but but (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081584)

until you need to wash your clothes/dishes/water-lawn with bottled water

Re:but but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081628)

The invisible hand is snapping on a latex glove, and will see you shortly.

Re:but but (0)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081862)

Sorry mud-hut Rawlsian jak-off, the lack of work and wealth in Western Pa. is a far greater risk to human health than a little feckin-A methane in drinking water. Better flame come outa your faucet than outa yo *zzwhole from eating Gub'mnt canned welfare pork! Drink Rolling Rock or Iron City beers if you got compunctions ... so frack-off GREENie go back to yo vermin-infested mud-hut.

Re:but but (2)

darjen (879890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081266)

Typical, pinning the blame on anti-regulation. When various governments are actually what is protecting these gas companies from lawsuit damages.

Re:but but (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081362)

"When various governments are actually what is protecting these gas companies from lawsuit damages."

right, aka anti-regulation. the government has to police corporations, not be in their pocket. your definition of regulation is odd

Re:but but (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081386)

Not really that odd, the limited liability granted to corporations is a pretty powerful form of regulation.

Re:but but (1)

Posting=!Working (197779) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081432)

That's regulation of the citizens. The company is under no regulation there.

Re:but but (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081528)

Do you even know what limited liability means? (Hint: it has nothing to do with criminal acts.)

Re:but but (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081620)

I think it probably means that an investor's risk is limited to their investment.

The notion that this has zero impact on how corporations end up being run is hilarious, and seems to be shared by you and a poster above. Of course, there is also the problem where corporations that misbehave are frequently allowed to continue to exist.

Re:but but (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081378)

and it couldn't be that you both are correct?  When business = government, why would they let you sue?

Re:but but (1)

darjen (879890) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081672)

Well, let's see. the FCC is owned by the telecom industry. the FDA is owned by the large food companies. does anyone really think regulation ever benefits the people? or just the big industry players? it sounds good, but in practice, government regulation is there to protect and entrench big business. there is nothing in it for the people, never will be.

but but both parties are the same (and im dumb) (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081438)

We need to keep electing the same Republicans that exempted natural gas fracking from the clean air act and the clean water act.

Since "both parties are the same" (and I'm a delusional moron) it doesn't really matter who we vote for...

Also, i think your child is sprouting tentacles, but the free market will take take that as an opportunity to sell tentacle hand jobs.

Err... maybe when we are tired of voting to poison ourselves we can vote for Democrats who have acted and continue to act to protect the environment over Republican objections.

Re:but but (2)

tmosley (996283) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081474)

Yes, regulation is bad. However, the homeowners who were screwed by these guys have every right to sue the living shit out of them, and force them to ship in water for them and their farms, and pay punitive damages.

When everything is owned by someone with a genuine economic interest, there are no externalities.

Re:but but (4, Insightful)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081600)

Almost nobody owns mineral rights beneath their own home. Since your neighbors or the person who owns your neighbors' mineral rights can still pollute your air and water, you can't even stop natural gas fracking from occurring in your neighborhood.

Natural gas fracking often lowers property values. Since polluted wastelands aren't unappealing to most people you can count on your home losing value when your neighbors consent to fracking.

Who are you supposed to sue and for what when natural gas drilling ruins your home's value? Has anyone even successful sued over home value loss due to drilling? Your neighbor who consented to it? The corporation who is following every law and regulation?

We need regulation to protect people from corporations whose only interest is profit. Otherwise people are given bottled water as a legal settlement for the wholesale pollution and destruction of their land and air.

Re:but but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081520)

Regulation is bad for business, the economy will give you a good example of that. However there are very contradicting research on fracking. For the most part it doesn't matter if it contaminates the water. These drillers bring in their own water, and make more fresh water than would have been in the area. Time to get your facts straight slash dotters. Look at Tetra..

Laws are good, regulations are bad (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081526)

Imagine if your neighbor's toilet clogged and, instead of calling a plumber, he started taking a dump over the fence on your garden.

What would you do?

A) call the police

or

B) complain about lack of a regulation on taking a dump over the fence?

There are already laws in effect stating that no one is allowed to poison their neighbor's water. However, since natural gas extraction *is* regulated, and the regulations do not prohibit fracking, then an exception is created allowing the corporations to poison the water in this manner.

The problem with regulations is that when you create them, instead of using the existing laws, something that would not normally be permitted could be allowed by the regulations by default.

Re:Laws are good, regulations are bad (5, Informative)

bit trollent (824666) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081682)

Natural gas fracking is specifically exempted from the clean air act and clean water act.

We can thank George W Bush and Republican majority for that... [wikipedia.org]

Please don't forget which political party enacted a law which legalizes the poisoning of neighborhoods and entire regions.

Oh frack! (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081182)

... a process known as fracking

Quick - blame it on the fracking Cylons!

New? (3, Informative)

Syssiphus (1043474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081192)

New study? Ever seen 'Gasland'?

Re:New? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081852)

Gas land aint an academic study, it's a movie.

Documentary About Fracking (5, Informative)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081198)

Gasland:
http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/ [gaslandthemovie.com]

You know fracking is bad when you can put a lighter up to a running facet in your kitchen and a fireball erupts.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (4, Funny)

iaoth (1905262) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081340)

You know fracking is bad when you can put a lighter up to a running facet in your kitchen and a fireball erupts.

But what about this rebuttal movie clip, "The Truth About Gasland", with folk music and happy children and puppies and sunshine?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1W8MnveFq8 [youtube.com]

Re:Documentary About Fracking (4, Funny)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081436)

The Truth About Gasland [anga.us]

Now be honest, who would you trust more. Some dirty hippy driving around with a video camera making a film.

OR

America's Natural Gas Alliance. That's an American ALLIANCE with AMERICANS. You don't hate America do you?
Plus, REGULATORS found it wasn't natural gas. If you can't trust American regulators, who can you trust?

Re:Documentary About Fracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081484)

They found it wasn't natural gas but "naturally occuring methane" (aka natural gas).

So we can dismiss Colorado's DNR as well? (1, Informative)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081838)

Seeing that they are the basis for many of the rebuttals to the exaggerated claims in the Gasland movie?

This is a problem I generally have with these groups that produce movies such as Gasland (Michael Moore is similar). They love to exaggerate, misdirect, and some out right lie in their presentations, all to make their case more dire. They love to incite fear and then quickly go elsewhere when objections are raised. They are quick to dismiss any objection under the head nodding, wink wink, type claim that those who don't agree are obviously shills.

This in the end weakens their cause because they come off as crack pots. I lived on a farm as a child in North Eastern Ohio. We changed wells three times during my twelves years of growing up there because of naturally occurring contamination. They are was very high in coal. We ran a water softener and a filter system just to have drinkable water. By drinkable I mean water that didn't taste outright odd. Toilets would have iron stains in days from cleaning.

So I am quite sure someone with a chip on their shoulder who didn't like the coal industry (or NG) in my old area could gen up a good scare story without revealing the pre existing issues.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081442)

EVERYONE points to that. I personally know several people in southern new york that can do that when NO hydrofracking has happened any where near them. It happens naturally, people. Seriously.

Gasland is about as balanced as Michael Moore.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081476)

EVERYONE points to that. I personally know several people in southern new york that can do that when NO hydrofracking has happened any where near them. It happens naturally, people. Seriously. Gasland is about as balanced as Michael Moore.

It didn't happen to those people till the fracking started which leads to the conclusion that it was because of the hydro fracking.

Also, the gas companies basically admit guilt when they purchase $25,000-$100,000 water filters and install them on the house.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081850)

No, I think they just go for the cheaper option of caving. 100k is much, much cheaper than a class action lawsuit if it appeases the citizens.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081770)

Give an example of the towns affected?

The nearest flammable well I know of is in Dimock, PA, about 45 minutes south of me. That one is clearly due to drilling - those wells ran clean for decades and then went downhill right after drilling commenced.

There's also the recent major blowout/frac water spill in Bradford County.

Yeah, the water in the Owego/Binghamton area isn't so hot (high mineral content, rusty), but no one on this side of the border has fizzy flammable water.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (1)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081456)

You know fracking is bad when you can put a lighter up to a running facet in your kitchen and a fireball erupts.

Obligatory youtube clip: inflamable tap water [youtube.com]

Re:Documentary About Fracking (1)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081494)

*koff* [consumerist.com]

Re:Documentary About Fracking (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081524)

No you don't. since you don't know that was caused by the fracking.

If it started or increased in frequency or severity after the fracking started then you have a correlation. But you don't "know fracking is bad".

The study the article is about, however, that's much better evidence that "fracking is bad".

Re:Documentary About Fracking (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081696)

I'm sure those people lived in those houses for 20 years passing out in the shower from methane exposure and getting ill everyday from their drinking water were thinking that was totally natural and it was just a "chance occurrence" that the gas company showed up and they saw the opportunity to make big money.... /sarcasm.

Your argument doesn't pass the "smell test" figuratively or literally.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081792)

Dimock's water ran clean prior to fracking operations commencing.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081580)

I have family that lives in the area. Not to downplay entirely the issues with fracking (which should be regulated under the clean water act) but the houses that you can light the water in now, you could do the same in before any drilling started.

Re:Documentary About Fracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081622)

You know fracking is bad when you can put a lighter up to a running facet in your kitchen and a fireball erupts.

And did you know that some people have this problem and while there is and never was any fracking anywhere around them? Methane occurs naturally and tends to show up in wells without anyone doing anything.

How much are they getting paid though? (2)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081202)

Yeah, it probably is contaminating the water table, but do you have any idea how much these people get paid by the drillers to operate on their land? It's a lot of money, and in most cases it's enough that these people have their water trucked in and wont have to worry about it. Bad for the environment? Sure, but do you really thing a struggling farmer cares about the environment when his business is failing?

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (2)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081220)

Problem is that contaminated water doesn't stay in one place.

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081244)

Unfortunately that's not the biggest concern for residents right now. They're fighting just to get their piece of the pie. But Gov. Corbett has staunchly opposed any drilling tax.

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081350)

Sorry, meant to give you +1 insightful but my moderating finger slipped.

Why no preview on moderation?

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081246)

Last I checked, the water table is a public good, and no one can easily sign away liability to care about polluting activities on their property. How much will they struggle and care when municipalities, nearby non-drilling farms and NGOs start suing his fracking-permissive assets?

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081262)

Anecdotally, the first person in a given area is paid relatively well. Their neighbors are then politely reminded, off the record, that they can either accept the er, generous, offer being made, or they can end up with poisoned groundwater anyway, and the drillers will just have to wait a bit longer for the gas under their property to diffuse through the porous substrata toward the wells next door...

If pollutants respected property lines, this would be much less of a problem...

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081406)

Wishing for my mods points today... this is spot on.

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (0)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081602)

Anecdotally = Pulled it out of your ass.

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (2)

Mr.Intel (165870) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081820)

Anecdotally = Pulled it out of your ass.

Well, he *is* talking about methane...

The kids are not getting anything (2)

Marrow (195242) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081306)

They are equally entitled to clean drinking water. And the people who dont own the property in apartment complexes are not getting anything. And the locally grown produce getting sprayed with this stuff, which is then fed to kids, livestock. They arent getting paid. If they cannot mine this valuable substance without contaminating the water, then they should have to completely replace the water supply with water piped in from a clean location. Every house, every yard, every farm well replaced with free city water. Forever.

Re:The kids are not getting anything (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081462)

I'm not saying this isn't affecting the water or that it's only the land owners' business. My point is that you shouldn't blame the land owners for taking the payments. This is the poorest area of Pennsylvania.

Re:The kids are not getting anything (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081482)

So it is okay to ruin the environment and jeopardize the health of everyone in the area for money, but only if you are poor?

Re:The kids are not getting anything (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081638)

Are you really blaming the landowners? Money is a powerful tool.

Re:The kids are not getting anything (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081722)

"Entitled" my ass. If they are paying for it, they should rightfully demand to receive what they're paying for. If they aren't paying for it, they can drill a well or go draw water from the river and dump some chlorine bleach in it.

In neither case do I consider clean water an "entitlement".

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081332)

A member of my extended family lives up in that area and we go up there as well. Our family member held out for more, but they tricked a lot of people into selling their rights for $50/acre in a bunch of people we talked to. On our family's lot, they want to put a pumping station, which is what my relative initially agreed to. Then they keep coming back asking to cut down acres of trees, add these drainage ponds, so on and so on. What used to be a nice woodsy mountainside is now filled with huge trucks, piles of gravel, and giant concrete slabs. All the roads are narrow 2 lane windy roads and you get stuck behind a fleet of slow moving trucks with no way to pass. It's hard for use to go vacation there because all the hotels are filled with Chesapeake employees. They take advantage of these people not having much, and sold them on it with used car salesman tricks.

Re:How much are they getting paid though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081354)

Sadly, this is very typical short-term thinking. And our governor is clearly siding with the drilling companies and should be impeached. The opponents to taxation or regulation of the drilling say it will kill jobs. If you think the gas companies aren't eventually going to be willing to pay a tax to get this gas, you're crazy. The gas isn't going anywhere, so the big rush is by the drilling companies so that they can get the gas before people figure out how badly they're getting shafted.

Woot! (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081218)

Free gas at the faucet !

Re:Woot! (1)

vawwyakr (1992390) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081718)

Yeah I could throw away my stove and cut off the evil regulated gas company gas and just use my sink! One knob for water and one for fire.....they're really just the same except the one for fire starts a sparker when you turn it.

Gas at the faucet (1)

vgerclover (1186893) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081740)

I've got the sense you where trying to be funny, but it's quite insightful [youtube.com] .

Bring on the burning fountains (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081230)

I'd set up some kind of cool burning fountain thingie in my front yard!

A sign of desperation (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081232)

The era of easy to get, cheaply-extractable high-quality fossil fuels is over. We're feebly grasping at pockets of gas here and there. But we'll colonize the stars. Riiiiiight. We'll use windmill-powered ion drives, right?

See, this is one of those things a truly advanced technological species WOULDN'T be doing...

Pssst.... Space Nutters... Put down the Star Trek DVDs and take a long hard look at reality.

Re:A sign of desperation (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081292)

Really sucks, and it's just run by a bunch of damn liberals anyway...

Re:A sign of desperation (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081296)

Only for you peasants. Since the drillers are under no clearly enforceable obligation to compensate anybody for their mess(and are, indeed, kindly and specifically exempted from the clean water act...), their costs remain satisfactorily low, and their production abundant.

Sure, a bunch of powerless people get to drink carcinogens; but that's an externality, and doesn't show up on their balance sheets.

The real problem here is that a bunch of people have been given alarmingly broad rights to shove costs onto others, without their consent, which has made substantially destructive practices highly cost effective. It is indefensible from basically every position between(and including) libertarian and certified green party; but since "Plutocrat" is the position actually calling the shots, we are unlikely to see much effective opposition.

Methane is what comes from your cooker! (2)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081270)

I've heard of these kids before – if they get enough air time you wind up with expensive gasoline and a broken economy.

Re:Methane is what comes from your cooker! (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081310)

You could collect it and sell it though! If only it were true ...

inimun.co.cc (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081288)

http://www.inimun.co.cc

And the company response is... (4, Funny)

pstorry (47673) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081318)

"Some of you may have noticed if you've tried to drink during the course of the last few years that your drinking water is now natural gas. That's because we've been doing invisible drilling in your area, which is turning your drinking water into natural gas. Don't worry, that just means it's working."
- Frack Johnson

Pennsylvania (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081376)

What do you expect from Pennsylvania? We have declared a war on the enviroment. That it is profitable is only coincidental.

*Oil processing? Invented here.

*Forests? Large forests of new growth planted during the great depression to create jobs (Civilian Conservation Corps). The original forests chopped down and sold.

*Lake Erie used to be bad enough that Dr. Seuss named it specifically in the Lorax. Heck, look above at deforestation note. The entire book could be about Pennsylvania. The lake Erie comment waslater removed when he heard it was cleaned up.

*White Tail Deer/Hunting? Transplants from out west. Native deer population hunted to extinction.

*Coal? Look up acid mine drainage in PA. The only thing rustier than some of the trucks around here are our streams. Oh, Centralia as well. Check it out.

*Garbage from Jersey and NY? We once had three land fills being proposed in my county alone.

*Nuclear? Three Mile Island and the state was contemplating carving out a niche as the North East's medical radioactive waste dump.

Shale Gas is just another feature in our cap.

Battlestar Galactica, frack (1)

pmarinus (893520) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081380)

It's not nice to frack with Mother Nature.

Basic flaw in the study as reported (-1, Troll)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081428)

There is a basic problem with the study as reported in both articles. There is no comparison to the amount of methane in the water from wells in the vicinity of gas wells that do not use fracking. This means that the methane may be in the ground water, whether or not fracking is used. Without knowing the amount of methane that was in the water in these wells before the fracking started, or having a comparison to ground water near gas wells where fracking is not used, we are unable to accurately evaluate the level of risk from fracking without knowing the answer to this question.
Have we not learned anything from the various anti-progress "studies" that have been done in the past? This does not mean that this study is anti-progress, it just means that there is further information necessary before we jump to conclusions.

Re:Basic flaw in the study as reported (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081536)

From the study synopsis:

"In active gas-extraction areas (one or more gas wells within 1 km), average and maximum methane concentrations in drinking-water wells increased with proximity to the nearest gas well and were 19.2 and 64 mg CH4 L-1 (n = 26), a potential explosion hazard; in contrast, dissolved methane samples in neighboring nonextraction sites (no gas wells within 1 km) within similar geologic formations and hydrogeologic regimes averaged only 1.1 mg L-1 (P 0.05; n = 34)."

Re:Basic flaw in the study as reported (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081538)

The ground is fractured to increase the mobility of the gas. But when people start claiming that the gas is moving into places where it isn't welcome, people question this. I find it odd that these "anti-progress" studies need to do perfect research and journalism. It's as if the burden of proof is been placed 100% onto the "anti-progress" group. I mean really, why cant the burden of proof be on the "destroy the world and fuck you in the ass" studies.

Re:Basic flaw in the study as reported (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081548)

You make a very good point, as the methane is likely coming from shallower formations than the shale, not from the fracture procedure. However, most people love to just blame the scapegoat without asking questions to become informed on the topic.

Re:Basic flaw in the comment above (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081698)

Why is fracking deemed as equivalent to "progress"?

Re:Basic flaw in the study as reported (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081742)

Dude. It's published in PNAS, one of the top scientific journals (which means the peer review would have been brutal). Read the actual study - even in just the abstract, they answer some of your questions regarding the methodology. In the actual paper, they clearly explain their basic methodology and the principles behind it, as well as their conclusions.

Your concerns are unwarranted. They test a valid comparison between fracking sites and non-extraction sites. They show quite convincingly data demonstrating the origin of the methane (ie. differentiation between biogenic and thermogenic sources), and they note that many of their non-extraction sites are slated for extraction in the future, which will allow a follow up paper for a longitudinal look at fracking on levels of methane gas in water sources and as surface emissions as modified by local geology.

I'm a biochemist, not a geologist, but the paper is super easy to read, and only 5 pages to boot. Give it a go.

And, in future, here's a hint: If you, a complete layperson, can come up with a number of problems to a scientific study in a few minutes, then you can bet that actual experts in the field who have dedicated their entire professional career (usually decades long) to these sorts of questions may just have thought about them too.

Re:Basic flaw in the study as reported (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081880)

From the linked article: "Analyses of 60 wells paint a picture of contamination near active gas wells. Almost all water wells more than a kilometer from an active gas well had only a few parts per million methane in their water. But most wells 1 kilometer or less from a gas well produced water with 19 to 64 parts per million methane. That’s at and above the “action level” of federal safety guidelines for methane, which can displace air’s oxygen to cause asphyxiation. The higher levels are also in the flammable range. “I watched one homeowner light his water on fire,” Jackson says."

You can't turn back the clock to a time before there was fracking for a rock solid analysis, but it is, IME, pretty solid evidence when you can chart the level of methane in the well water against the distance from the fracking site.

Perhaps more intriguing is the level of "chemical" (i.e., the non-water bits pumped into the shale to assist gas extraction) that shows up in the drinking water. If a study could find evidence of "chemical" contamination that could only come from fracking, then you have circumstantial evidence that fracking's leading to contamination (methane) and solid, direct evidence of contamination. And, I dunno about you, but I'd be willing to put down cash money that the chemicals drillers are using are not benign.

don't smoke in the shower! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081468)

how would that work actually

Fracking exempted from Clean Water Act (5, Interesting)

wombatmobile (623057) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081502)

As Kevin Grandia wrote [huffingtonpost.com] last year:

In 2005, at the urging of Vice President Cheney, fracking fluids were exempted from the Clean Water Act after the companies that own the patents on the process raised concerns about disclosing proprietary formulas - if they had to meet the Act's standards they would have to reveal the chemical composition which competitors could then steal. Fair enough, but this also exempts these companies from having to meet the strict regulations that protect the nation's freshwater supply.

Re:Fracking exempted from Clean Water Act (5, Interesting)

rabun_bike (905430) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081826)

Yes. And those formulas contain a special combination of some of nasty chemicals such as benzine, toluene and naphthalene. The chemicals are needed to dissolve the shale rock and release the trapped gas. But even more alarming is the millions of gallons of water (a finite resource) intentionally polluted in the process. This polluted water has to be deposed of and currently some gas companies are injected the polluted water into deep wells in Arkansas. Even Fox News is reporting that the drilling and injecting of this polluted water in Arkansas might be causing thousands of earthquakes. There really is nothing "green" about the whole fracking process except in some ways the actual methane that is extracted when you compare to taking off the tops of the mountain in West Virginia and Kentucky.
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/03/01/fracking-earthquakes-arkansas-man-experts-warn/

Same deal in Australia (1)

SebZero (1051264) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081544)

An interesting report about the practice of fracking in rural Australia. Similar stories about widespread pollution - particularly to do with the chemicals used in the process - but also about some of the battles mining companies play with land owners http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/special_eds/20110221/gas/ [abc.net.au]

Well, d'oh, has no-one watched Gaslands? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081574)

Well, d'oh, has no-one watched Gaslands?

People actually drink tap water? (0)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081588)

Nobody that I know of doesn't use a filter of some sort these days to keep at least some of the junk out of their drinking water (or buy bottled water). This just points to all the more reason to use a filter.

Re:People actually drink tap water? (1)

FirstNoel (113932) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081784)

The problem is filtering alone isn't enough. A lot of times the chemicals in the water actually eat the filtering equipment.

They either need water trucked in or use cisterns.

Sean D.

Anybody here from New Paltz? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081598)

I live in the Hudson Valley, where people protest fracking like crazy.

Buy into the stock now... (1)

Jyunga (2040832) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081646)

"Brita Faucet Fryer".

Frack (1)

ozbird (127571) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081654)

It isn't called "fracking" for nothing.

Re:Frack (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081856)

But the gas is "natural", so that's fine.

Alberta woman sues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081678)

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/story/2011/04/27/calgary-fracking-drilling-lawsuit.html

We have the same problem...

Ok so (1)

GeorgeMonroy (784609) | more than 3 years ago | (#36081802)

Drill baby drill!

Cylons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36081876)

I think those fracking cylons did it bill, THEY'RE FRACKING UP OUR WATER!!!!!!
I'm a fracking cylon bill!!!!!
WE'RE ALL FRACKING CYLONS!!!!

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