Methane Discovered in Drinking Water Near Fracking Wells
A Stanford researcher found the highest risk of leaks was from shallow natural gas wells drilled in California, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Padma Nagappan is a multimedia journalist who writes about the environment, renewable energy, sustainability, agriculture, and biotechnology.
A Stanford University scientist has found that people who live near shallowly drilled oil and natural gas wells risk drinking water contaminated with methane.
A potent greenhouse gas, methane is highly flammable.
“The main risk is from chemical spills and poorly constructed wells that leak,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of earth system science at Stanford, who presented his findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., last week. “Our research shows that most problems typically occur within half a mile.”
“In Parker County, Texas, we found homes with very high levels of methane when their water bubbled due to gas,” Jackson said. “The biggest risk from methane in water is explosions, which could happen in a basement or sheds where gas builds up. Also, a well that leaks methane could be leaking other things into the groundwater.”
The government does not classify methane dissolved in drinking water as a health hazard
Such contamination was typically traced to natural gas wells with insufficient cement barriers to separate them from surrounding rock and water, or to improperly installed steel casings that allow the gas to travel upward.
Hydraulic fracturing wells that were installed at depths of 3,000 feet or less posed a risk for groundwater contamination. Jackson found there were at least 2,600 such shallow fracking wells in the United States, many of which were drilled directly into freshwater aquifers.
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In California, Jackson discovered hundreds of wells drilled into aquifers fewer than 2,000 feet from the surface.
“There are a lot of pockets of natural gas and oil that are found in shallow levels, plus we don’t do very deep drilling because of seismic activity,” he said.
Regions of the U.S. with the highest risk for groundwater contamination from fracking include California as well as parts of Pennsylvania and Texas where bedrock is naturally fractured. Millions of abandoned oil and gas wells in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and other gas-producing states also pose a threat.
Local geology plays a role in leaks. For instance, when Jackson sampled groundwater in Arkansas, he didn’t encounter contamination because rock formations provided a seal against potential leaks.
But fracking has led to significant increases in groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania and Texas. He found high levels of methane, ethane, and propane in the drinking water of homeowners living within half a mile of wells in northeastern Pennsylvania, near the Marcellus shale gas field.
“Fracking can be and is done safely much of the time,” Jackson said. “Occasionally, though, companies make mistakes. We need to understand why they occur and how to prevent them from happening elsewhere.”
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Karen Ducey Photography & Multimedia
This Horse Hasn’t Been Let Out Of His Stall In YEARS
By Christian Cotroner
Feb. 25, 2016
Not many people have seen him since his glory days as a Tennessee walking horse.
Today, See My Magic lives in a small stall on a picturesque property in Roy, Washington.
Karen Ducey Photography & Multimedia
He’s still wearing his plastic “walking” shoes — they’re kind of like high heels attached to the hooves, giving these horses their unique, albeit exaggerated, gait. Magic has likely been wearing his unwieldy rubber and plastic shoes for years.
Tennessee walking horses are accustomed to the pageantry of equestrian events — but many, for all the flash and show, don’t always have the happiest of home lives.
Yes, they can be showstoppers. The thing is, the show stopped long ago for 13-year-old Magic.
“We suspect the horse has been in the stall for more than three years and possibly even four years without ever having been let outside,” animal activist Nicki Callahan, who lives about 50 miles away in Seattle, tells The Dodo.
In fact, when photojournalist Karen Ducey visited the farm recently, the owner told her Magic hadn’t been outside in years.
The situation isn’t lost on the neighbors in this equestrian community. Several of them have spoken with Callahan. Many of them own horses who frolic in long paddocks or open pastures.
“Most of these people are aware of the situation,” Callahan says. “They’ve offered to let Magic go into their paddock, to go into their pasture.”
The owner, she says, has declined those offers.
When Callahan went to visit the owner a couple of weeks ago “just to see how I could work with him,” she was threatened with a call to police.
Animal control officers have visited several times, once as recently as last Saturday for more than two hours.
“Nothing’s going on,” Brian Boman, supervisor at Pierce County Animal Control, tells The Dodo. “There’s no crime that’s been committed, I can tell you that. There’s no code that requires the horse to be removed from his stall.”
Indeed, Boman says Magic is in “outstanding” physical condition. No laws in Washington state have been broken.
But that hasn’t stopped a campaign to buy Magic from gaining momentum. An online petition has garnered more than 9,000 signatures. A GoFundMe effort has raised more than $3,000 in an effort to buy the horse.
The group has already offered to purchase Magic for $6,000 — an offer, they say that’s been declined.
If Magic is to step out of his stall again, they will need more.
The owner, Callahan says, has asked for $20,000.
And those “high heels?”
“We have to prove that it’s unjustifiable or unnecessary physical pain,” Boman says. “There’s no way possible that we could prove that with this animal.
For now, Boman thinks his officers have better things to do than chase complaints about a well-fed horse who just happens to never set foot outside.
“I’m getting pretty fed up and tired of it because it’s wasting our time when we actually have other cruelty cases that we need to deal with,” he says. “This is taking too much time from my officers.”
What do you think? Does Magic deserve to step outside of his stall? Lend your voice to the petition.
If you would like to read more about Magic and see more pictures of his situation, check out Karen Ducey’s firsthand account in Animal News Northwest.
Topics: see my magic tennessee walking horse roy washington horse in barn horse stuck in barn
Christian Cotroneo Staff Writer