Posts Tagged ‘water quality’

The Lowdown on Fracking

Written by Michelle Taylor, Editor-in-Chief, Labratory Equipment on . Posted in Media, News

What’s the real story behind fracking? The question is a viable one when it comes to the process of hydraulic fracturing, or extracting oil and gas from shale rock deposits deep below the Earth’s surface. Fracking in the United States currently stands in the crosshairs of a scientific, environmental and political debate that has raised more questions than answers.

In this instance, there are more than two sides to the coin. Each side has its opinion, each side has its research and each side has its motivations—which means we as a nation do not have a consensus. Does fracking contaminate the drinking supply? Is it a long-term option to help reduce energy costs? Does it cause earthquakes? Is it no more toxic than household chemicals?

The one thing all sides do agree on is the need for answers, to these questions and many more. The pathway to answers is simple—more research. According to PSE Healthy Energy, an organization that collects peer-reviewed papers on fracking, of the approximately 550 papers in their repository now, 75 percent of them have been authored in the last year and a half.

“That tells you there is a rapid increase in the amount of scientific investigation going on,” PSE founder and president Anthony Ingraffea told Laboratory Equipment. Ingraffea, a retired professor of engineering at Cornell University, is considered an expert on hydraulic fracturing, even consulting on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent report.

Given this increasing amount of research, it can be difficult to get a handle on all subsequent information and data. This article examines recent news concerning the most talked-about applications surrounding fracking.

Hydraulic fracturing is not new; the process has been around for decades. What is new is what the technology drills into—shale rock. There are hundreds of miles of shale rock in the U.S. that, until recent years, were largely untapped natural gas reserves. For example, the well-known Marcellus Shale Region runs 600 miles at 900 feet deep along the Appalachian Basis in the Eastern U.S., touching New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

In the 80s and 90s, traditional gas and oil wells targeted specific underground pools where the resources collected. If you drilled into the pool, you got lucky. If you missed, you made a dry hole. Conversely, if a shale region is found to be abundant with gas, you could drill anywhere the rock formation is present.

This is where the controversy picks up. Unlike traditional methods, this unconventional fracking method calls for an abundant amount of gas wells to be placed in a single region in order to get as much as possible out of the shale formation.

“It is an issue of spatial intensity,” Ingraffea said. “There are gas well pads across from schools and swimming pools and between the runways of the airport. There are pads within a few hundred feet of private property because the gas and oil is everywhere.”

Drinking water

Five years in the making, the EPA released its “Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment” report in early June. The draft report, which was commissioned in 2010 by Congress, concluded that fracking has not had a significant impact on water supplies, but remains cautious of possible risks.

“We did not find evidence that [above and below ground] mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” the EPA report reads. “The number of identified cases where drinking water resources were impacted are small relative to the number of hydraulically fractured wells.”

Two sentences later the report says there is insufficient pre- and post-hydraulic fracturing data on the quality of drinking water resources, which inhibits a determination of the frequency of impacts.

Since its release, the draft report has received flak for being nothing more than a 1,000+ page literature review on already-published information.

“There is no original data or original analysis,” Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, told Laboratory Equipment. “It would have benefited from more widespread sampling, especially in waste streams and basins. Another thing it did not have was any recommended practices, which I think [EPA] should have done.”

Read the entire article on the Labratory Equipment website.

West Virginia Water Research Institute to co-host Water Resources Conference Oct. 5-6; announces Call for Abstracts

Written by Tamara Vandivort on . Posted in Blog, Events, News

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University is accepting abstracts through August 14 for the 2015 Water Resources Conference of the Virginias. The West Virginia Water Research Institute and the Virginia Water Resources Research Center at Virginia Tech will co-host the event, which takes place October 5-6, at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va.

The conference combines exceptional educational programs with opportunities for researchers, policy makers, state and federal agencies, environmental consultants, private organizations and the public to share in the latest information, technologies and research relating to West Virginia’s and Virginia’s water resources.

logo_theme_dateThe theme for this year’s conference is “Water – Energy – Agriculture.” Researchers from colleges and universities, state and federal agencies, private organizations, consulting firms, industry and students are invited to submit abstracts for consideration for oral presentation. Abstracts for basic and applied research papers are being solicited in all areas related to water resources including agriculture, energy, monitoring, policy, supply, technology, water quality and others.

“Agriculture and energy are the two biggest consumers of water in the United States,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute. “We need to find technical, management, policy and economic solutions that will lessen the water requirements of the energy and agriculture sectors while finding better ways to treat and use marginal water resources.

West Virginia is the headwaters for many of the nation’s major rivers and WVU is a regional leader in water research. Our goal for this conference is to initiate an open dialogue among policy makers, water users and researchers and move toward solutions that will apply across the country.”

For more information about the 2015 Water Resources Conference of the Virginias, including registration and abstract submission details, please visit

The West Virginia Water Research Institute was established in 1967 and serves as a statewide vehicle for performing research related to water issues. It is the premier water research center in West Virginia and, within selected fields, an international leader.

Wheeling Jesuit Biology Team To Assist WVU In $350,000 Water Monitoring Quality Study

Written by WTOV on . Posted in Media, News

WHEELING, W.Va. — Wheeling Jesuit University biology students, along with Professor Dr. Ben Stout, will assist the West Virginia Water Research Institute and West Virginia University with a $350,000 grant to expand a regional water quality monitoring program called Three Rivers QUEST.

The Colcom Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based private foundation dedicated to fostering a sustainable environment, provided for the launch of the Mon River QUEST in 2010 after monitoring began in 2009 on the Monongahela River through a U.S. Geological Survey grant. The effort expanded to become Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ), with Colcom Foundation contributing more than…

Read the full article at the WTOV website.

New Report Finds Little Fracking Pollution in Monongahela River

Written by Nick Farrell, WBOY, June 5, 2015 on . Posted in Media, News

MORGANTOWN – A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that changes in the quality of water in the Monongahela River are minimal, despite 8 years of steady oil and gas drilling in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Most contaminants found in groundwater during this survey were attributed to coal mining, not gas extraction. According to a local expert, that has been the trend since close monitoring of the Monongahela River began in 2009.

“People jump to the assumption that the problem was with the gas industry, and they may have had perfectly good reasons to think that, but when we started monitoring the river in July of 2009, we very quickly found out that a lot of the salts are the sort of things you’d find out of coal mine drainage,” said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute.

Read the full article on the WBOY website.