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ALERT: Fracking Linked to Chemical Disruption of Nearby Drinking Wells

Nov 16, 2016 04:41 AM EST
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What is fracking and how does it affect the environment?

 A new study revealed that hydraulic fracturing or fracking could be responsible for the heightened concentrations of some common compounds in the drinking water wells near the drilling site.

The study, published in the journal Science of Total Environment, suggests that the disturbances in the chemical composition of groundwater caused by fracking could eventually result to water-wuality problems.

"The finding suggests increased mixing of different groundwater sources," said Beizhan Yan, a geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and lead author of the study, in a press release.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 60 water samples from private wells, in addition to some 1,850 samples taken by other researchers in industry and academia. The researchers found that the distance of the water well from the fracking site, as well as its topography, could play a role in the chemical mix up.

Lowland drinking wells within six-tenth of a mile of a fracking site have higher levels of chlorine, sulfates, calcium and iron. On the other hand, lowland wells that are more than one kilometer away have higher levels of sodium, manganese and methane.

Yan explained that the powerful pulses created by the fracking might act like a pump that expand and contract subterranean spaces causing the contents to squeeze out. The stress introduced by the fracking could propagate up to the surface and initiate mixing of groundwater, either from the sides or below. Additionally, Yan mentioned that leaky well casings at shallow depths or pills of fracking fluids on the surface trickling down might also cause the groundwater mix up.

The researchers noted that the chemicals found in the drinking wells in near the fracking sites were below hazardous levels. However, the researchers claimed that the chemical compositions of different drinking wells could be used as evidence for drilling. It might provide some sort of maps that could be used to identify the hotspots that could potentially concentrate toxicants in the future.

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