As Fracking Booms, Growing Concerns About Wastewater

Photo retrieved from: www.e360.yale.edu

“In a study conducted last year, researchers from the environmental consulting firm, Downstream Strategies, attempted to trace fracking water — from water withdrawal to wastewater disposal — at several wells in the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“We just couldn’t do it,” said Downstream Strategies staff scientist Meghan Betcher, citing a lack of good data and the wide range of disposal methods used by the industry. What the study did find was that gas companies use up to 4.3 million gallons of clean water to frack a single well in Pennsylvania, and that more than half of the wastewater is treated and discharged into surface waters such as rivers and streams.

Increasingly, the fracking boom in the Marcellus Shale and across the United States is leaving behind some big water worries — concerns that are only growing as shale gas development continues to expand. Pennsylvania, which has experienced a frenzied half-dozen years of hydraulic fracturing, is now the U.S.’s third-largest producer of natural gas. The Downstream Strategies report noted that from 2005 to 2012, Pennsylvania and West Virginia issued permits for nearly 9,000 natural gas wells that use hydraulic fracturing technology, which pumps a high-pressure mixture of water, chemicals, and sand deep into shale formations to extract natural gas.

The vast volume of water needed to extract that natural gas, and the large amounts of wastewater generated during the process, is causing increasing concern among geochemists, biologists, engineers, and toxicologists.”

Read more: Yale Environment 360

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