Yale releases new fracking study - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Yale releases new fracking study

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WSIL -- New research by Yale University found no evidence of chemicals migrating to the drinking water supply.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers have found groundwater contamination seems to come more from contamination at the surface seeping down into the water than from the fracking operation seeping upward.

The study found a much bigger chance of water contamination from containment ponds than from the actual act of breaking gas and oil out of layers of rock below.

The argument over hydraulic fracturing has divided people here in southern Illinois and across the country.

"It's a hot topic right now and there's still a lot of unanswered questions," said Yale PhD. student Brian Drollette.

The process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure, fractures shale rocks to release natural gas inside. The biggest concerns involve whether or not it affects drinking water.

"We're not trying to say whether it's a bad or good thing," added assistant professor of chemical and environmental engineering Desiree Plata.

Researchers at Yale University set out to see if any appearance of organic chemicals showed up naturally or from recent activities associated with hydraulic fracturing. Sixty-four groundwater samples collected from private residents in northeastern Pennsylvania went to researchers. Plata and Drollette discussed their findings with News Three over Skype.  

"We saw there was a correlation between the concentration and the nearest gas well that has had an environmental health and safety violation in the past," explained Drollette.

They also didn't detect any organic chemicals from the shale layer a mile below the ground surface into the groundwater aquifers, but that doesn't mean their findings would turn out the same everywhere.
     
"Geology across the country is very different. So if you're living over in the New Albany-area shale of Illinois, that might be distinct from living in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania," said Plata.

Though researchers say different terrain could yield different results, they believe what they learned in Pennsylvania will add to the dialogue on the safety of fracking.

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