Appalachian Basin

Study Confirms Hydraulic Fracturing Not Contaminating Water Wells in Carroll County

Late last week, Amy Townsend-Small, assistant professor of geology at the University of Cincinnati, provided the preliminary results of her study examining groundwater in Carroll County, Ohio. The results showed that shale development has not caused any negative impacts on private water wells.

The ongoing study, conducted with the assistance of the Carroll County Concerned Citizens, looked at a total of 25 samples in the county with regular testing of four private water wells during the first phase of the study.  Out of all of the water wells sampled, not a single well contained methane from oil and gas development or hydraulic fracturing fluids.

In announcing the results on Thursday, Amy Townsend Small told the audience: “We haven’t seen anything to show that wells have been contaminated by fracking.”

Meanwhile, Paul Feezel of Carroll Concerned Citizens described the results as “very good news.”

The University of Cincinnati chose Carroll County since it is currently the epicenter of Utica Shale development in Ohio, housing 347 permitted Utica wells, 246 of which are either developed or producing.  Due to the increased economic activity, Carroll County has also seen tremendous economic benefits with sales tax growing exponentially and unemployment dropping dramatically.

The results of this study should come as no surprise. State regulators across the United States as well as many federal regulators in the Obama administration have gone on record to explain the safety of hydraulic fracturing.  The findings of the University of Cincinnati study also fall in line with recent studies conducted by Penn State University and the Department of Energy, as well as the conclusions of many experts across the country.

While critics of hydraulic fracturing are always quick to judge studies that occasionally have funding from the oil and gas industry, Amy Townsend-Small told the audience the study was funded entirely without industry support.

Some of the wells tested in the study did show the presence of biogenic methane.  This kind of methane is created by the transformation of organic matter by tiny microorganisms and has nothing to do with shale development.  The levels were also not high enough to cause concern.  The highest sample tested was caused by a nearby pond with active microorganisms or decomposing plant matter.

Unfortunately, many of the anti-fracking groups who claim to support environmental protection have been silent on this announcement. It could be that they missed the news, or that they don’t want to admit that shale development is protective of groundwater – contrary to their constant and false claims otherwise.

As we continue to discuss the safe and responsible development of shale, we must rely on science, not anti-fracking hyperbole set forth by those opposed to developing oil and gas. These latest findings, although still preliminary, are hopefully a step in the right direction.

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