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Amy Mall’s Blog

Incidents where hydraulic fracturing is a suspected cause of drinking water contamination

Amy Mall

Posted December 19, 2011 in Health and the Environment

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Updated: February 28, 2014

NRDC supports federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the Safe Drinking Water Act. We believe this is a sensible approach that would ensure a minimum federal floor of drinking water protection in the more than 30 states where oil and gas production occurs. 

Opponents of such regulation claim that hydraulic fracturing has never caused any drinking water contamination. They say this because incidents of drinking water contamination where hydraulic fracturing is considered as a suspected cause have not been sufficiently investigated, either because scientists and regulators could not properly investigate (did not have the information or technology needed) or because they chose not to, even where signs point to hydraulic fracturing. Some cases where groundwater was contaminated during hydraulic fracturing operations have been attributed to other causes, such as faulty well structure, even if a well failed during the hydraulic fracturing process.

Below is a list of incidents where drinking water has been contaminated and hydraulic fracturing is a suspected cause. I can't emphasize enough that there are more cases of drinking water contamination around the country related to oil and gas production; those listed below are cases where a homeowner had enough detailed knowledge to know that a nearby well was recently fractured and specifically included that information in reports. In many cases of drinking water contamination where hydraulic fracturing has not been mentioned as  the cause, it may be because the homeowner does not know if the nearby gas well was recently fractured. It does not mean that hydraulic fracturing is completely absolved. As you will see, these cases are not limited to just one company or one state. The stories from around the country are unfortunately familiar.

Please send me other incidents of which you are aware, and I will add them to this list.

Arkansas: In 2008, Charlene Parish of Bee Branch reported contamination of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Southwestern Energy Company. Her water smelled bad, turned yellow, and filled with silt.

Arkansas: In 2007, the Graetz family in Pangburn reported contamination of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Southwestern Energy Company. The water turned muddy and contained particles that were “very light and kind of slick” and resembled pieces of leather.

Arkansas: In 2009, a family in Bee Branch, who wishes to remain anonymous, reported changes in water pressure and drinking water that turned gray and cloudy and had noxious odors after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Southwestern Energy Company.

Arkansas: In 2007, a family in Center Ridge reported changes in water pressure and water that turned red or orange and looked like it had clay in it after hydraulic fracturing of nearby wells owned by Southwestern Energy Company. They told their story on YouTube.

Arkansas: In 2008, a homeowner in Center Ridge reported changes in water pressure and water that turned brown, smelled bad, and had sediment in it after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby well owned by Southwestern Energy Company. He also told his story on YouTube.

Colorado: In 2001, two families in Silt reported a water well blow-out and contamination of their drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of four nearby natural gas wells owned by Ballard Petroleum, now Encana Corporation. Their drinking water turned gray, had strong smells, bubbled, and lost pressure. One family reported health symptoms they believe are linked to the groundwater contamination.

Colorado: In 2007, the Bounds family in Huerfano County reported a pump house exploded and contamination of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of nearby wells owned by Petroglyph Energy.

Colorado: In June, 2010, the day hydraulic fracturing began on a nearby gas well in Las Animas County, landowner Tracy Dahl checked his cistern and found approximately 500 gallons of grayish brown murky water where water had previously run clear for years. The Dahls have extensive water testing documentation going back many years, verifying that their water has always been clean and clear. They were told by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (“COGCC”) staff that the water could not be tested for chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing fluid because there is insufficient information about the chemicals used. Three monitor wells on the ranch are now producing methane at an escalating rate.

Michigan: In June, 2013, Bernard and Phyllis Senske, who live adjacent to a fracking site in Rapid River Township, reported that they started experiencing a drop in water pressure and discolored water. An independent investigation found that found that “the static water level within the Senske well has been lowered by 11 feet." According to Mrs. Senske: “It looks like milk coming out of the faucet.” According to EcoWatch, the Senskes report that no problems have existed with water quality or quantity in this water well, which installed approximately in the early 1990s, and the only obvious change in the vicinity is the nearby horizontal fracking operation.

New Mexico: A 2004 investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found two residents who reported that the quality of their water was affected by hydraulic fracturing.

New York: In 2007, the Lytle family in Seneca County reported contamination of drinking water the morning after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Chesapeake Energy Corporation. The water turned gray and was full of sediment.

New York: In 2009, the Eddy family in Allegany County reported contamination of drinking water during hydraulic fracturing of a nearby well owned by U.S. Energy Development Corporation. The water turned "foamy, chocolate-brown."

North Dakota: The North Dakota non-profit organization Bakken Watch reports very serious health symptoms in humans, livestock, and pets after nearby hydraulic fracturing. Their website has photos of sick animals, pit leaks, and corroded tanks. North Dakota state legislators admit they are "understaffed and overwhelmed" and "struggling to provide adequate oversight amid an explosion of activity in North Dakota's oil patch."

Ohio: In 2007, there was an explosion of a water well and contamination of at least 22 other drinking water wells in Bainbridge Township after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Ohio Valley Energy Systems. According to the State investigation, one of the contributing factors to this incident is that: “the frac communicated directly with the well bore and was not confined within the “Clinton” reservoir.”

Pennsylvania: Michael and Nancy Leighton of Granville Summit, Pennsylvania, report that tests of their drinking water found clean and safe water in May, 2011, before fracking occurred near their home, but that water testing conducted in May, 2012--after nearby fracking--found substantial increases in the levels of methane, ethane, propane, iron and manganese in their groundwater. They report that their water "drastically changed in clarity and color, had a foul odor, contained noticeable levels of natural gas," and had "become flammable." In addition, they report that the creek on their property began bubbling at the surface.

Pennsylvania: In May, 2011, fracking began near the home of Jim Harkins in Allegheny Township in Potter County. Jim reported that his water turned brown two days later. Jim says he is a life-long Republican who is not against drilling, but thinks there should be "safe, responsible development of our natural resources."

Pennsylvania: A gas well near the home of the Simons family in Bradford County was drilled in 2009 and re-fracked in February, 2011. Shortly after the 2011 operation, the Simons family reports that their tap water turned gray and hazy. After the water changed, family members began getting severe rashes with oozing blisters, and one child had to be taken to the hospital for torrential nosebleeds that would not stop, nausea and severe headaches. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) tested the water and found very high levels of methane and other contaminants in the water, but said it was safe to drink. Since the Simons family stopped using any of their water, these symptoms have gone away but the water still “stinks awfully; it is a scummy, rotten, nasty smell...”

Pennsylvania: In September, 2010, a lawsuit was filed by 13 families who say they have been and continue to be exposed to contaminated drinking water linked to hydraulic fracturing. Eight different properties in Susquehanna County are said to have contaminated drinking water. One child has neurological symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic substances. Southwestern Energy, the company operating the well near these families, responded that it promptly investigated all complaints and that both the company and the Pennsylvania Department of the Environment independently tested the water and found no link between gas operations and the water quality and no problems with the integrity of the gas well.

Pennsylvania In 2009, the Zimmerman family of Washington County reported contamination of drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of nearby natural gas wells owned by Atlas Energy. Water testing on their farm found arsenic at 2,600 times acceptable levels, benzene at 44 times above limits, naphthalene at five times the federal standard, and mercury and selenium levels above official limits.

Pennsylvania: In 2008, two families in Gibbs Hill reported contamination of drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby natural gas well owned by Seneca Resources Corporation. Their water had strong fumes, caused burning in lungs and sinuses after showering, and caused burning in the mouth immediately upon drinking. The state found that the company had not managed the pressure in the well properly and had spilled used hydraulic fracturing fluids that contaminated the drinking water supply.

Pennsylvania: In 2009, families in Bradford Township reported contamination of drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of nearby natural gas wells owned by Schreiner Oil & Gas. The drinking water of at least seven families has been contaminated.

Pennyslvania: In 2009, the Smitsky family in Hickory reported contamination of their drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of nearby natural gas wells owned by Range Resources. Their water became cloudy and foul-smelling. Testing found acrylonitrile, a chemical that may be used in hydraulic fracturing.

Pennsylvania: A family in Bradford County reports that its water turned black and became flammable from methane contamination in 2009 after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby well operated by Chesapeake Energy. The water cleared for a while but turned black again in 2010. Relatives living down the road also report their water turning black in 2010.

Texas: Larry Bisidas is an expert in drilling wells and in groundwater. He is the owner of Bisidas Water Well Drilling in Wise County, and has been drilling water wells for 40 years. Two water wells on his property became contaminated in 2010. When his state regulator stated that there has been no groundwater contamination in Texas related to hydraulic fracturing, Mr. Bisidas replied: ""All they've gotta do is come out to my place, and I'll prove it to them."

Texas: In Wise County, Catherine and Brett Bledsoe report that their drinking water became contaminated in 2010 soon after hydraulic fracturing began on two natural gas wells bordering their property. The water stung their eyes during showers, and their animals refused to drink the water. Without any assistance from regulators, the Bledsoes paid for their own water testing. The testing found benzene, a known carcinogen, at double the safe levels.

Texas: In 2007, three families who share an aquifer in Grandview reported contamination of drinking water after hydraulic fracturing of a nearby well owned by Williams. They experienced strong odors in their water, changes in water pressure, skin irritation, and dead livestock. Water testing found toluene and other contaminants.

Texas: The Scoma family in Johnson County is suing Chesapeake Energy, claiming the company contaminated their drinking water with benzene and petroleum by-products after hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells near the Scoma home. The family reports that its drinking water sometimes runs an orange-yellow color, tastes bad and gives off a foul odor.

Texas: Tarrant County Commissioner J.D. Johnson, who lives in the Barnett shale area, reported groundwater contamination immediately after two gas wells on his property were hydraulically fractured. His water turned a dark gold color and had sand in it.

Texas: Carol Grosser, in south Texas, noticed changes in her water after a neighbor told her a nearby well was being hydraulically fractured. Carol noticed changes in her water pressure and rust-colored residue in her stock tanks. The fish in her tanks died, and some of her goats had abnormal milk production and produced kids with unusual birth defects.

Texas: Toby Frederick began noticing a foul odor and discoloration in his water after "an oil company blew out some casing during a hydraulic fracturing job northeast of his property." Mr. Frederick paid for his own water samples, which found traces of benzene, a known carcinogen, in his water. He sent samples to his local Ground Water Conservation District, but never received any results. The Texas Railroad Commission told him his water was drinkable, even though it is brown and smells like diesel fuel.

Texas: The Executive Director of the Upper Trinity River Groundwater Conservation District in north Texas stated that the District "gets 'regular reports' from property owners who said that 'since a particular [gas] well had been fracked, they've had problems' with their water wells, such as sand in them, saltier water or reduced water output...."

Texas: Susan Knoll in the Barnett shale reports that last year her drinking water became foamy right after hydraulic fracturing of a well adjacent to her property. Since that time, additional gas wells have been fractured near her home and her drinking water has continually gotten worse. It sometimes foams, becomes oily, and has strong odors that burn Susan's nose when she smells her water. Susan has a lot of videos and more information on her blog.

Texas: Grace Mitchell, a resident of Johnson County, Texas, is suing Encana and Chesapeake. According to her lawsuit, soon after drilling and hydraulic fracturing took place near her home in 2010, her water became contaminated, feeling slick to the touch and giving off an oily, gasoline-like odor. Testing results performed on her well water confirmed it was contaminated with various chemicals, including C-12-C28 hydrocarbons, similar to diesel fuel.

Texas: The Harris family of Denton County, Texas, is suing Devon Energy. They say that their water became contaminated soon after Devon commenced drilling and hydraulic fracturing near their home in 2008, and that their water became polluted with a gray sediment. Testing results performed on the well water found contamination with high levels of metals: aluminum, arsenic, barium, beryllium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, lithium, magnesium, manganese, nickel, potassium, sodium, strontium, titanium, vanadium, and zinc.

Virginia: Citizens reported drinking water contamination after hydraulic fracturing. Water was murky and had oily films, black sediments, methane, and diesel odors. Individuals experienced rashes from showering. The Buchanan Citizens Action Group reported over 100 documented complaints of adverse effects of hydraulic fracturing and the Dickenson County Citizens Committee reported ground water quality deteriorated throughout the county as a result of the large number of hydraulic fracturing events.

West Virginia: The Hagy family in Jackson County, West Virginia, is suing four oil and gas companies for contaminating their drinking water. They say their water had "a peculiar smell and taste" and the parents as well as their two children are suffering from neurological symptoms. A news article reports that the lawsuit makes the connection between the drinking water contamination and the hydraulic fracturing process.

West Virginia: In Marshall County, Jeremiah Magers reported in October, 2010, that "As soon as they 'fracked' those gas wells, that's when my water well started getting gas in it." He also lost all the water in his well.

West Virginia: In Wetzel County, Marilyn Hunt reported to the EPA in 2010 that: "frac drilling is contaminating the drinking water here." Residents report health symptoms, such as rashes and mouth sores, as well as illness in their lambs and goats, which they suspect is linked to drinking water contamination.

Wyoming: Families in the small town of Pavillion have been reporting contamination of their drinking water for at least ten years. Hydraulic fracturing has been used in the many wells in the area owned by Encana Corporation. Drinking water has turned black, smelled bad, and tasted bad. Individuals report medical symptoms they believe are related to water contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found contamination in 11 water wells, and concluded in the draft report on its investigation that: "the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing."

Canada: In the fall of 2012, Howard and Nielle Hawkwood, ranchers near  Cochrane, Canada, lost ten percent of their cattle herd (18 cattle) after fracking near their ranch. Their veterinarian found the cattle had an electrolyte imbalance, but couldn’t treat it.  They also noticed an “off taste” in their drinking water and had the water tested. Compared to previous years, the chloride levels had doubled. Mr. Hawkwood reports that he has also checked the water of all of his neighbors, and says, “Everybody’s got the same problem.” In addition to their water contamination, the Hawkwoods also report severe air pollution, health problems, and damage to their barn and other property due to underground vibrations.

(There are additional incidents in Canada that have not been added yet).

Last updated: February 28, 2014

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Comments (Add yours)

L.S.Apr 6 2010 11:34 PM

Aquifer is contaminated in Dimock, PA.
However the water was ruined due to bad casing job BEFORE hydro-fracking occurred.

http://www.damascuscitizens.org/CABOT-DEP-ORDER.pdf.

phil andersonApr 7 2010 06:01 PM

These are quite interesting. Does anyone know what goes into a well when conducting hydraulic fracturing? Mostly sand and water. This takes place thousands of feet below the water tables that those who complain of contamination drink from. If the contamination did occur it would be during the high pressure pumping phase of the job because the fluid would not want to flow up through various formations when it would much prefer to flow into the low pressure wellbore. If it did hit their wells during the high pressure phase then their wells would blow out because of Pascal's law and path of least resistance. 90% of the stimulation jobs that take place in Arkansas, and I would guess the other natural gas shales in the NE, are water, sand, a small percentage of bacteriacide and friction reducer (gel). It's funny the motives of the landowners are pure, but the gas companies are evil. But really, the boogey man is around every corporate enterprise even though it is made up of property owners as well.

Walter PidgeonApr 9 2010 12:31 PM

Gas production has changed many lives for the better, financially, in Arkansas. People are sending their kids to college who NEVER would have been able without income from the shale play. Jobs are being created during the Great Recession/Depression II.

At the same time, any reasonable person, thinking objectively, can see that gas production is involved when a 15-20 year-old private water well with no history of problems suddenly 'goes bad' when a nearby gas well is spudded-in or when the frac/water cannons start going off.

Again, these companies are greatly helping the economy of a poor state. However, some think they could do it a little more responsibly.

Everyone's got an angle/agenda on the topic. Honest discussion from either side is tough to find. For example...

Mr. Anderson- A small percentage of a million gallons (per well) ain't a little bit. And we both know you are oversimplifying/diminishing the hazardous nature of the ingredients of the fracking fluid 'recipe.' Just the known components that aren't sand and water are pretty nasty.

Amy MallApr 9 2010 01:21 PM

I have previously blogged about how toxic a half-percent can be: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/how_toxic_are_hydraulic_fractu.html

Sharon WilsonApr 12 2010 09:41 PM

This is super helpful. Thank you!

Mike H.Apr 12 2010 11:02 PM

One big problem not discussed often is the flow back fluids from the fracking. Often they contain BTEX(benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, & xylene), naphthalene, salt, and various metals. Recently, there was a fire at a PA flow back impoundment pond:

http://www.weeklypress.com/default.asp?sourceid=&smenu=1&twindow=&mad=&sdetail=1872&wpage=1&skeyword=&sidate=&ccat=&ccatm=&restate=&restatus=&reoption=&retype=&repmin=&repmax=&rebed=&rebath=&subname=&pform=&sc=2392&hn=weeklypress&he=.com

Flow back fluids could easily be pumped around during the fracturing.

Taryn HopeyDec 20 2011 12:13 AM

It does seem from what states you have posted with contamination in their water that they are fracturing along the North American Craton plate???

Please see this map: http://www.mapsorama.com/north-america-craton-map/

This ties with concerns on another environmental issue(s); which I do pray never gets approved; is the tar sands pipeline.

These energy business'es seems hell bent on destroying our earth and with no conscience of their actions towards mothernature, and the people it supports ...Just lobbying, writing the laws, and producing for their shareholders for profits.
We have the ring of fire on the edge of the pacific coast, with earthquakes being unpredictable. Unfortunately all I can see from this is the damage it will do, Such as an earthquake opening up in areas where it once was strong but due to fracturing the earths crust; lets say an explosion near the tar sands pipeline which gets ignited by the blast and sends fire down that long pipeline to the coast and then destroys all of the oil in their storage facilities....burning up our (2011 new) lower oxygen levels in our troposphere, and combining with the mecury floating in that air from the coal factories, (coming down whenever it rains- light-med-or disasterous ways) thus warming our air a bit more, thus creating those gigantum hurricanes...

Is there no escaping this (trend has been confirmed) of expected tragedies that these businesses work so hard for their billion dollar profits at the cost of ruining the world?

The time is now to come together to SAVE OUR WORLD or Global Warming will be GLOBAL EXTINCTION!!!!

Amy MallDec 20 2011 10:35 AM

Dear Taryn: Thank you for writing and sending the very interesting map. I think you might also find the following blog post about earthquakes of interest, from my colleague Briana Mordick:
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/bmordick/earthquakes_caused_by_fracking.html

Fred GrosDec 20 2011 11:16 AM

So Amy,
When are you going to persuade your employer to condemn this dangerous process, instead of continuing to maintain that HVHF can be made safe via regulation?

AlmaDec 20 2011 11:34 AM

Amy,

THANK YOU! I concur with Sharon-- this is extremely helpful! I live in Idaho and while very few people are aware of this fact, we are squarely in the bullseye of the oil and gas companies. To date they have drilled 11 test wells, 7 or 8 of which they are apparently very excited about. I attended two public meetings last Wednesday where industry described the pockets of gas we're sitting on as being some of the purest in the country (of course that's if you believe everything industry has to say, and I for one take their words with rather large grains of salt!). In fact, one of their attorneys, John Peiserich and I went toe to toe because he stood in front of a standing room only crowd and told them signing a gas lease would NOT affect their ability to do certain things with their properties-- such as refinance, take out a second, take out a line of credit/farm loan, etc.. My attorney is reviewing my Deed of Trust as we speak. I have not, nor will I, signed a lease, but a ton of people here in Western Idaho have. The land men have not been honest with people-- in fact haven't even been disclosing the fact that these leases are recorded against the title of their property. Kinda makes you wonder if they aren't willing to be honest with folks off the bat, then what else are they not being honest/factual about?

There is a group of us fighting hard to keep them at bay. That said, we could use all the help we can get.! Any ideas, suggestions, evidence of problems, ANY/ALL information is greatly appreciated! My email address is idahocare@yahoo.com, Facebook page is ICARE (Idaho Concerned Residents for the Environment), and I also have a personal FB page.

Great post Amy-- thanks for all your doing!

Alma

Amy MallDec 20 2011 11:59 AM

Dear Alma: Thank you for the comment and for everything you are doing to help educate others in your community. We encourage anyone considering signing a lease to first consult with a knowledgeable oil and gas attorney. You can also refer people to the Landman Report Card: http://www.landmanreportcard.com/ and NRDC's citizen toolkit where additional information is posted:
http://www.nrdc.org/health/drilling/

Amy MallDec 20 2011 12:03 PM

Dear Fred: Just to clarify, NRDC does not maintain that hydraulic fracturing can be made 100% safe via regulation. As long as fracking is occurring, we are working to get stronger standards in place to reduce risk and help protect human health and the environment. While it will always be a risky act due the nature of fracking itself, all the chemicals used, and the naturally occurring toxic substances that are involved, we believe that the risk can be reduced, and should be, as much as possible. If you haven't seen it, I recommend our President's recent blog post on the topic:
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/fracking_demands_effective_saf.html

AlmaDec 20 2011 12:47 PM

Amy,

It would appear that a bunch of your links have now been deactivated! I suppose we shouldn't be surprised because we know how much industry hates it when the truth seeps out...

Alma Hasse

Amy MallDec 20 2011 12:58 PM

Alma: Some of them might be old. Please let me know if there is something specific you are looking for and I will see if I can locate it.

John DoeDec 20 2011 05:09 PM

In the Pavillion case, the Governor of Wyoming says the study was scientifically questionable. The USGS has detected organic chemicals in well water in Pavillion for 50 years, long before fracturing was employed. In every single allegation, the link of contamination and frac’ing is tenuous.

Iris Marie BloomDec 20 2011 06:25 PM

That's absolutely not true, John Doe; there is nothing tenuous about the link between fracking and contamination in Pavillion. To take Pavillion first, because the EPA has taken such pains to study it scientifically, a geologist here explains that there is less than one in a million chance that the fracking chemicals polluting that aquifer could be pre-existing:

"According to EPA investigation documents, most of the water wells were flushed three times before they were tested in order to rid them of anything that wasn’t flowing through the aquifer itself. That means the contaminants found in Pavillion would have had to work their way from a sink not only into the well but deep into the aquifer at significant concentrations in order to be detected. An independent drinking water expert with decades of experience in central Wyoming, Doyle Ward, dismissed such an explanation as 'less than a one in a million' chance."

Doyle Ward's comment on the less than one in a million chance is printed in a 2009 ProPublica article by Abrahm Lustgarten; link here http://www.propublica.org/article/epa-chemicals-found-in-wyo.-drinking-water-might-be-from-fracking-825.

Two years later, we know much more about that those contaminants are -- benzene, naphthalene, acetone, 2-butoxyethanol -- and the EPA has ruled out alternative explanations. Have a heart, John Doe, stop being an apologist for the industry and take a look at the suffering caused by Encana: animals have gone blind and died after drinking from water wells; people have found bad-smelling water with pools of oily fuels on top; nerve pain and other nervous system damage consistent with chemical exposure have hurt people's lives -- not to mention the high levels of methane that force people to vent their homes continually for fear of their homes blowing up. What kind of way is that to live?

Great job, Amy. I'm sure you are aware you are actually understating the scope of the problem. Give me your email and I'll send you a six-page document listing many other cases, some of which you may not know about. Of course the really scary thing is that, as bad as the water contamination is, the carcinogenic and neurotoxic impacts from air pollution are even worse. We need to stop fracking and make a U-turn to prevent a large-scale environmental and public health catastrophe.

www.protectingourwaters.com

anonymous Dec 20 2011 08:38 PM

In Bradford County Pa, there has been work done by certain individuals to identify cases of contaminated water and it is believed to have exceeded 80 cases of private water well contamination. There are clusters starting at the same spot that the Susquehanna River is bubbling methane. The water samples have been seen as white, tan, brown, black, and even purple. Often barium levels are so high people become very ill and still have no choice but to still shower and bathe in it. One very recent sample shows the water as white and gel, as one witness of this water coming from the kitchen sink seen it and referred to it looking like "bull sperm". The DEP and gas companies remain in denial, even supported by the state university. Money seems to be no problem for the right cause, but at the cost of innocent citizens. All of these incidents have all the criteria you have mentioned and more.

Fred GrosDec 21 2011 09:23 AM

Amy, the industry does not have a reliable method of sealing well bores to prevent upward migration of gas and fluids outside of casings. Pollution of soil and aquifers is inevitable given this failing. Please explain to me why it is not entirely reasonable to tell this industry to get out of Dodge and don’t come back until the industry has developed and perfected (1) a reliable well bore sealing method and (2) a benign, non-toxic process for extracting gas from shale. If NRDC is unwilling to take this position, then NRDC should lobby the State of New York to assume full responsibility for damages to people and property that will inevitably result. However, NY State, like all other states where the industry operates, is giving every indication it will leave affected citizens to fend for themselves when things go wrong.
The State has signaled its willingness to compromise the welfare of some New Yorkers by distinguishing two large population centers (NYC and Syracuse) and exempting them from exposure to hydraulic fracturing. The reason for the exemptions (that increased sedimentation from drilling activity could compromise the NYC/SYR Filtration Avoidance Determinations) is specious. With extraordinary protections in place to prevent sedimentation, there is no reason that NYC and Syracuse could not also experience the joys of fracking. I wonder also whether the magnitude of sedimentation in the NYC watershed resulting from tropical storm Irene was not greater than that likely to result from drilling in the NYC watershed. I say this only to suggest that distinguishing NYC/Syracuse from the rest of the State should be recognized for what it is - a crass political maneuver aimed at reducing the numbers of NY State residents lined up in opposition to fracking.
I am grateful that many of my fellow New Yorkers are protected from the vagaries of fracking and do not wish that those protections should be rescinded. I am also grateful for the many state legislators who, despite representing constituencies largely protected from fracking, continue to advocate for equal protections for the rest of the State. We are in the realm of morality and justice here. What is fair for one is fair for all.

Sharon JuenemannDec 25 2011 02:23 AM

The known cases NRDC has posted makes this even worse then in the movie Gasland. At the time that was filmed the Gas Company claimed only 4 wells destroyed. As far as this creating jobs I think the risk is too great. How many people is this making sick and it takes tons of water when many areas are having severe drought.

S.M.Jan 8 2012 09:16 AM

I live in a small community in NE Ohio. Many residents have signed contracts in the past year resulting in the start of hydraulic fracturing. At a recent meeting, after two wells were drilled, four residents complained of severe changes to their drinking water. One had testing done prior to the well being drilled w/in 1.5 mi of her property and testing done post and found the water to be contaminated. The post testing was conducted after she started experiencing health problems and the water took on a foul smell. Needless to say, I am deeply concerned and the more I read, the more I realize this recent practice of drilling is not as safe as they would like us to believe. Thank you for educating the public. S.M.

Amy MallJan 11 2012 11:34 AM

Dear S.M.: I am very sorry to hear about the drinking water contamination and health symptoms being reported by your neighbors. I urge them to report these cases to the EPA Hotline by phone or by e-mail: http://www.epa.gov/region3/marcellus_shale/tipline.html

I also recommend that they report drinking water endangerment to the EPA regional office hotline: 800-621-8431 and EPA regional drinking water office: 312-886-5991. Reports should also be made to state authorities if that has not already been done.

I would be very interested in learning more about these incidents in Ohio and hope residents will send me additional information. I can be reached at: 202-289-6868.

Jeff R. BowmanFeb 6 2012 05:24 PM

With regards to the drinking well water in Pavilion Wyoming..

The statement " The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found contamination in 11 water wells, and concluded in the draft report on its investigation that: "the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing." is referring to two separate investigations.

Read the ATSDR report: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/hac/PHA/Pavillion/Pavillion_HC_Well_Water_08312010.pdf for the Chemicals of Concern generating the health concern, which is predominantly sodium salt.

The likely contamination of ground water by TPH is a result of shallow non-drinking water aquifers which is heavily contaminated by pre-90's exploration pits and activities. These are currently being addressed including cleaned up and remediation. Groundwater used for drinking is most likely contaminated via these shallow aquifers.

The statement "the data indicates likely impact to ground water that can be explained by hydraulic fracturing." involves two very deep exploratory wells the EPA drilled..

This is a DRAFT report as it requires peer and public review on the findings and conclusion.

Rick Feb 15 2012 11:21 AM

Ok do we all know that oil companies are fracturing zones that already have oil in them. They are already loaded with Benzene, ethyl benzene, PAHs and more.

DON WHITEMar 1 2012 04:35 PM

If people would only do the research before jumping on the band wagon. They would learn that they have been so miss guided.
And in turn they are hurting our country. Please do the research from more than one side of any issue.

Michael L KyesMar 23 2012 12:41 PM

A friend in oil has said that we are damaging ground water everytime. It seems to me we can run out of oil and survive but water is needed forever.

Mark NovakApr 19 2012 11:52 AM

There are technologies that exist today which solve problems with fracturing however they are not well known. I work for a Canada oil company which uses a technology called Terra Slicing of which big oil companies can frac from. The technology has a 100% success rate, It's ecologically safe and environmentally friendly. It's only a matter of time before technology like this becomes mainstream to fix problems associated with fracturing. People need to look at the science behind the process. Fracturing is not bad if properly completed, but if one company improperly fracs and causes geologic issues then everyone all of a sudden gets a bad rap.

Grace NicholsApr 25 2012 06:26 AM

"If one company improperly fracs and causes geologic issues then everyone all of a sudden gets a bad rap." -- Mark Novak, oil company worker

This demonstrates the mistake: If one company improperly fracs adn causes geologic issues than EVERYONE and the entire geology lives with that mistake for all time from now forward.

Yet when PROPERLY fracking has occurred, we've been having earthquakes all over the United States, as well as water contamination and methane release.

There is no ethical way to endanger the geology, ecology, biology and meteorology of the future to save the short term profits of the few.

Ban fracking.

Mary Robison ThorpeJul 25 2012 01:27 PM

Amy, Another incident occured close to me here in upstate NY. The residents are gagged now because they are in a lawsuit:
http://marcelluseffect.blogspot.com/2010/12/dirty-water-in-big-flats.html

And you don't have this one in Lycoming Co. PA listed http://shale.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/news?start=666 (2nd article on the page). Of course, there are no doubt many more since you wrote this blog.

Shay Aug 7 2012 06:54 PM

Since they have put oil wells around our house our water looks scummy taste nasty also my family has been staying with headaches noose bleeding joints swollen. We cant get anyone to test our water. What can I do?

Amy MallAug 8 2012 03:26 PM

Dear Shay: I am so sorry to hear this. Please feel free to contact me directly at 202-289-6868.

ReyneNov 10 2012 04:39 PM

I have been researching this topic very heavily. It has come to my attention that a lot of these do NOT go into detail. For instance "New Mexico: A 2004 investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found two residents who reported that the quality of their water was affected by hydraulic fracturing." ... Tell me, HOW these fracking wells were affecting the water? I had TWO rigs by my house BOTH of which were fracked... Had ZERO problems... Maybe the problems with this water were pre-existing and ya'll just need someone to blame! 98% sand and water, 2% chemicals.. WHICH are found in every day supplies. The fracking happens 6,000-8,000 Feet underground. Aquifers are between 50-800 feet deep. So tell me, HOW does something nearly a mile away affect something? NO, methane does not travel up... These oil companies DO have to follow strict EPA and OSHA rules to protect the eviroment, the people, and employees... SO TELL ME, if these chemical are affecting your water WHY do the people who handle the chemical not have health effects... IF a well that is being fracked INSTANTLY affects a nearby well, WHY are the death rates in the oil field NOT higher?

Jen WilliamsDec 10 2012 09:20 PM

I love how some people think just because it hasn't happened to them, then it MUST be safe. You were just lucky my friend. Some of it has to do with the depth of your well of you water source. They drilled for gas 2 miles down the road from my dad without using hydrofracking & some of the people in his neighborhood & another nearby neighborhhood now have methane in their water. They are in housing developments on lots so redrilling water wells somewhere else is not an option. The gas drilling company denies everything & they can't drink or use their tap water. Those who were affected had deep wells in sandy soil of abot 100 ft. deep. My dad's well is only 40 ft. deep & in rock. He is also a little farther away. So he was lucky & didn't get methane in his water. They havr petitioned to put in public water but each resident would need to contribute thousand of dollars no on can afford. Ticked?! Oh yeah...they're ticked & they have a class action suit filed against the gas drilling company.

TomasDec 29 2012 09:46 PM

Ok.... EVERYTHING is coincidental..... Just because people have wells that produce good clean drinking water for years and years, then an Oil Company comes in with chemicals and fracking, doesn't mean it's related. Just obviously coincidental in every case! Seems that if the same toxic chemicals are being found in ground water contamination as are being used in fracking...and the wells became contaminated after the fracking started, then that should be a "smoking gun"....

Fine the Oil Companies HEAVILY after proving their contribution. What kind of idiots say job creation is more important than human lives and the contamination of our water sources? Geeze, if it's in the name of job creation, why not create a cyanide plants to produce cyanide and sell cyanide capsules to depressed people? That would be job creation, right? Where does logic end and stupidity begin here?

So I say get some good investigative reporters involved and have them track down the Politicians who get "kick backs" from the Oil Industry where the issues are taking place. "Follow the money trail". Then expose those Politicians, their decisions, and how much they were paid to "look the other way". Continue follow-up stories until they and their families are ran out of the State(s).

Sosthenes BehnJan 29 2013 03:26 PM

I am in the process of researching the impact that fracturing has on ground water resources. Does anybody have hard data on this issue?

Amy MallJan 29 2013 09:52 PM

Dear Sosthenes: One study you could review is the Duke paper found here: http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/pnas2011.pdf

Cheryl CaryJan 29 2013 11:16 PM


NYS - Town of Lebanon, Madison Co. (Spill #0813694; API Well ID #31-053- 26305-00-00). March 19, 2009. The well experienced an unexpected flow of natural gas to the surface and an unknown ignition source started a fire. Fuel lines on the rig melted, resulting in the release of 200 gallons of diesel fuel. The drilling company, Norse Energy Corporation, has drilled 14 wells in Madison and Chenango Counties since January 1, 2009

Per NYS DEC - “This event was not related to hydraulic fracturing and occurred before any horizontal drilling took place at the time.”


NYS - Town of Freedom, Cattaraugus Co. occurred in 1996, (Spill #9610441; API Well ID #31-009-22657-00-00). A strong flow of gas was encountered about 2,600 feet below ground. The well bore became pressurized causing methane migration. Manifestations included a pond and residential water wells in the area. 12 families were evacuated from their homes. The State Supreme Court in Cattaraugus County awarded damages to affected individuals in April 2005.

Per NYS DEC - “This was a unique incident caused by human error that in no way reflects routine operations. It was also completely unrelated to horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing of any type and no surface spill of hydrocarbons or other chemicals occurred.”

Yes, that’s right, it only took 9 years to award damages. See how responsible drillers are.

NYS - Town of Independence, Allegany Co. incident occurred in 2003 (Spill #0375293; API Well ID #31-003-14571-00-00). A valve malfunctioned at a facility associated with an injection well that is used to dispose of brine produced at three of the operator's natural gas storage fields. Water treatments were given to two or three nearby residents to ameliorate concerns about the potential for impacts to their private wells.

Per the NYS DEC - “ This incident was not associated with drilling or hydraulic fracturing.”

NYS - Town of Lebanon, Madison Co. (Spill #0813694; API Well ID #31-053-26305-00-00). March 19, 2009. The well experienced an unexpected flow of natural gas to the surface and an unknown ignition source started a fire. Fuel lines on the rig melted, resulting in the release of 200 gallons of diesel fuel. The drilling company, Norse Energy Corporation, has drilled 14 wells in Madison and Chenango Counties since January 1, 2009

Per NYS DEC - “This event was not related to hydraulic fracturing and occurred before any horizontal drilling took place at the time.”


“In our area (Lebanon), there have been two gas well rig fires in the last six months, there was a profound drilling accident of a test well in the Town of Brookfield in 2007 that contaminated a number of homeowner wells and rendered some properties worthless. The DEC makes no mention of these impacts or similar impacts or worse ones in other states. I am also aware of public health discussions about the impact of drilling in the western part of the state in Chautauqua County that are still in some dispute but ignored for the most part by the DEC.” - Lebanon Supervisor, Madison County, NY, Comments on Recent Natural Gas Article - Madison County Courier, July 22, 2009

Peter BaxterFeb 23 2013 03:25 AM

The point everyone is missing is that you all have a legal right to fresh water and sanitation. If necessary get your drinking water analysed by a University Hospital. Then get a good lawyer.

cliff frackJul 15 2013 11:07 PM

These complaints are merely organic methane. Fracking occurs more than a mile away from the water table, seperated by rock. Fracking is not causing these natural, and organic water table phenomenons. Fracking is totally safe and is helping the poor obtain energy at cheaper prices. By 2025, the US will be an oil and gas exporter, and there will be such a glut of worldwide supply that oil and gas will be half of 2013 values, and the poor will benefit. Will you help the poor, or oppress the poor?

Steve Yang, P.E.Jul 25 2013 03:51 AM

I've been asked by my colleagues in California, about low-cost means of keeping a watch on well water quality. We hope to learn about 'base-line' water quality--as in 'before fracking' conditions, possibly from EPA, or USGS' database. Has anyone done such a survey; on a gross regional scale? We suspect there maybe much fracking going on in California already, since there is no requirement to register and notify about franking plan or on-going operations. People in the Monterey Shale formation areas are worried.

Amy MallJul 25 2013 06:49 AM

Hi Steve: Check out this post on Mora County, New Mexico's baseline water testing program:
http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/amall/baseline_water_testing_what_is.html

Amy MallJul 25 2013 08:39 AM

Steve: Additionally, baseline testing is now required in about three states within a certain distance of permitted fracking sites, to varying degrees. Mora County's program was more comprehensive. NRDC thinks it should be required everywhere.

Adina BergerOct 31 2013 07:31 PM

Why would any of these companies care about regulation if they are so sure that they aren't affecting water quality?

Joanne G. AllenJan 4 2014 01:15 PM

This is good information. Here in New York State we are working hard to save our water, BUT the State is allowing PA to sell "frack waste water" to villages & towns to melt snow on roads.
Outrageous!

Amy MallJan 7 2014 10:36 AM

Dear Joanne: Thanks for the comment. We agree it's outrageous, and NRDC is working to support communities who want to pass their own legislation banning the spreading of frack waste on local roads. Last week, we sent a letter to Erie County Executive, Mark Poloncarz, in support of the frack waste road spreading ban passed by the Erie County legislature. We hope to help more local governments use their home rule authority to outlaw this dangerous practice.

markJan 11 2014 09:47 PM

When our drinking water is contaminated by a selfish self serving fracking company that is as bad as it gets. If don't think all these wells were contaminated from fracking you are mentally retarded. Once your well is contaminated your property is worth nothing. That is a death sentence if it is my well. Do people realize without water you die. These company's are coming in knowing they are going to destroy your drinking water. It takes a really big scumbag to poison your kids. If this happens to my well i will dedicate my life to finding the owners of the company and paying them back. Have a nice day you southern hillbilly trailer trash frackers. Look me up if you think you are tuff enough. I prefer you to be 6.6 and 260 . I love the challenge/

Lisa researching hydraulic safetyJan 15 2014 03:21 PM

This is terrifying. What can we do to stop this?

Amy MallJan 15 2014 04:14 PM

Hi Lisa: thanks for the comment. You can write to EPA from our website and ask the agency to take action:
https://secure.nrdconline.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=3314

You can also get involved with efforts to increase protections at the state or local level where you live. We have local organizations listed on our website (see the Resources by State tab at the link below), or let us know where you are located and we can send other suggestions: http://www.nrdc.org/health/drilling/

erik schubertJan 16 2014 09:44 AM

Are there any cases that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that fracking contaminates wells? Any peer reviewed articles? The one from Duke is helpful but I really need more.

Amy MallJan 16 2014 01:51 PM

Dear Erik: Thank you for commenting. I would like to refer you to pages 25-35 of the following document: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=f5aa8c33-b106-4d49-ad31-cfc43c688ea8. Please feel free to contact us with additional questions.

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