Processing Magazine

Study finds increased arsenic levels in groundwater near fracking sites

August 22, 2013

<photocredit>Jim Parkin/Hemera/Thinkstock</photocredit>

A study by the University of Texas in Arlington has added new evidence to the long list of findings suggesting that fracking for natural gas, also known as hydraulic fracturing, could be harmful to underground water, leading to contamination and potentially threatening public health and the environment.

Researchers took samples of groundwater from an area near the Barnett Shale, where some 16,000 gas wells are currently operating, and discovered increased levels of arsenic, as much as 18 times the normal concentration, in areas close to an extraction site. The samples, taken from about 100 private wells, also detected higher concentration of metals such as strontium and selenium.

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While these chemicals can occur naturally in the environment and are common for this specific area, their levels were significantly higher than normal for drinking water, the BBC reported. Another factor that led researchers to conclude that these levels were linked with the gas wells was the fact that the concentration of chemicals fell as the distance from a well increased.

Another interesting finding was the detection of methanol and ethanol in the groundwater samples. These are substances that do not occur in the area naturally. Still, scientists believe they have come not from fracking fluids but from rust dislodged from private well pipes because of the arsenic in the water, the BBC said.