The process of drilling for natural gases like methane and ethane includes a process referred to as “fracking” or “hydrofracking” Fracking is not a new process, it has been used for several years even in drinking water application to try and get more yield from a drilled well. With the advancement of horizontal drilling, fracking helped improve production and make drilling for natural gas more profitable.
These wells are drilled several thousand feet deep and then drilled horizontally for several hundred feet. This means the well is being drilled through the water table and this is where things could potentially go wrong. There are very stringent regulations and requirements for double casing the well where it enters the water zone, but things can go wrong and the casing could fail causing the water to be contaminated. Additionally, the process of drilling through a water table can affect the water quality in nearby wells. It could be a temporary contamination just due to the drilling process or it may have more lasting effects. In the area where the well is horizontal, small charges are set off to fracture the shale rock releasing methane and ethane. Once this is complete a sandy mixture is injected into the well under high pressure to further help release the gases for collection. This mixture can contain a variety of chemicals, many of which are propriety and are not disclosed. There is concern this chemical mixture could make it into the water table. The mixture flows back to surface, while picking up naturally occurring contaminants from the geological formation through which it is flowing. These naturally occurring element include thing like arsenic, iron, lithium, strontium, uranium as well as radiological contaminants.
Establishing A Baseline
It’s important to establish a baseline for the water quality of your well or other water sources if there is drilling going to occur in your area. States on which “fracking” is happening have specific regulations for the drilling companies to perform testing on private wells and other water sources that are located within a certain distance of the well head. This can range from 100- 1000 feet, so anyone outside that area may be responsible for the cost of testing. Performing this testing could help protect your investment, after all what good is a home if the water is undrinkable. In order to protect your investment, you need to make sure any samples collected will stand up in a court of law. First you need a third-party individual either from the laboratory you are using or a trained third party sampler. Be sure to check out the laboratory you are using has the proper certification based upon your state’s requirements. Finally, when determining what too test for, you should consider potential contaminants that may already be present and you will want to document those levels to establish a baseline in case those levels are raised to an unsafe or undrinkable levels. Also, consider testing for things that may not be present to establish they were not present prior to the drilling activity. Contact us here for additional questions or help in determining what test should be done for your circumstance.