February 3, 2015
Dr. Tarek Saba recently published a book chapter in the third edition of the "Introduction to Environmental Forensics." The chapter is titled, "Hydraulic Fracturing Data Analysis Methods to Identify Sources of Dissolved Gas and Chemical Compounds in Drinking Water Wells."
In claims of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing (fracking or fracing), the key task typically involves tracing the source(s) of compounds found in a drinking water well located near a fracturing operation. This task requires chemical characterization of all potential sources to the drinking water well in question, including the ambient background condition of the groundwater (i.e., pre-drill groundwater chemistry), land uses (e.g., industrial or agricultural), or other household activities (e.g., trash-burning pits) that could impact the water well, as well as chemicals associated with the fracturing process: drilling mud (water and oil based), hydraulic fracturing solutions, and flowback/produced water. Only after this characterization can one determine the source(s) that account for analytes detected in the drinking water well in question.
This chapter reviews the steps generally followed to assess sources of compounds in a drinking water well and whether they relate to fracturing operations. Some examples of relevant circumstances are provided in this chapter based on the author's review of information from groundwater contamination claims in Pennsylvania.