New Test to Monitor Water Safety after Fracking

by Elizabeth Alford on May 2, 2016

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre have created a new test that will help monitor the risk of contamination of groundwater due to fracking activity.

Related: EPA Finds Little Risk to Drinking Water from Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is the process of splitting shale rock with high-pressure fluids to release gas that is recovered for fuel. As fracking activity has increased across America and around the world, so has the debate about the risks to the environment and our water supply.

The new test records the unique “fingerprints”of methane gas left after fracking activity. Researchers developed their test after exploring a number of exploratory shale gas and coal bed methane wells from around the UK.

Dr Stuart Gilfillan, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the project, said: “Creating this fingerprint test will enable gas exploration and extraction to be carried out responsibly and should help address public concerns over this technology. It is important that careful monitoring of methane levels in nearby waters is carried out when commercial extraction begins.”

There have been numerous studies over the last few years that present contradictory conclusions about the safety of fracking.

  • Yale: measured well water near fracked wells concludes that ‘there was no evidence of association with deeper brines or long-range migration of these compounds to the shallow aquifers
  • EPA: claimed certain fracking activities that have the potential to impact drinking water resources but found no evidence that these activities have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water in the United States.
  • John Hopkins : concluded possible adverse health outcomes associated with fracking


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