Appalachian Basin

SRBC Finds No Change in Water Quality from Marcellus Shale Drilling

This week the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) released its third report for the Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network (RWQMN). SRBC has been collecting data in Pennsylvania and New York since 2010, and this latest report provides a comprehensive analysis of the conditions across the SRBC network. The bottom line – data show Marcellus Shale drilling is not negatively impacting water quality in the river basin.

From the SRBC press release (emphasis added):

Of the 58 watersheds covered in this report, SRBC has observed:

  • with continuous monitoring from 2010-2013, data collected did not indicate any changes in water quality;

  • with a few exceptions, the water chemistry at the monitoring stations indicates good water quality; and

  • the results of aquatic insect monitoring were not affected by the density of upstream natural gas wells or pads.

Currently the monitoring network has 59 stations that continuously monitor for pH, temperature,   dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, and turbidity. Quarterly samples are also taken for metals, nutrients, ions, and radionuclides.

“One of the main concerns with natural gas fracking is radionuclides. For this reason, SRBC included gross alpha and beta sample collection into the discrete sampling routine at each station which tests for all sources of alpha and beta radioactivity. Since sampling for these parameters began in 2010, there have been no samples collected that have exceeded water quality standards for both gross alpha and gross beta.” (pg. 16, emphasis added)

The data also looked at macroinvertebrate levels.

Neither well density nor well pad density appear strongly related to macroinvertebrate IBI score. Indeed, using a linear regression model, neither factor explained greater than 1 percent of the variability in IBI scores for any given year (Table 13). (pg. 26)


SRBC Executive Director Andrew Dehoff told Fox 43,

“The Commission takes very seriously one of its core functions of monitoring water quality conditions in the streams and rivers of the Susquehanna Basin. This third report provides more information on the data collected as part of the Commission’s effort to evaluate whether or not water quality conditions in streams are reflecting impacts associated with natural gas drilling.”

SRBC says that the data will also be analyzed by universities and various agencies to study the impacts of natural gas development, climate change and road salt usage. Fortunately, the data show the Marcellus Shale industry is operating without impacting Pennsylvania’s waterways. This also comes on the heels of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) report that found fracking has “not led to widespread, systematic impacts to drinking water resources.” In Pennsylvania, if an incident were to occur, according to SRBC, “Pennsylvania agencies have used the continuous water chemistry data to track the events and determine if any water quality impacts occurred.”

Fortunately, data show impacts are not happening and the SRBC will continue to provide ongoing monitoring to ensure the high quality streams in the Susquehanna River Basin are not impaired.

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