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USGS Analyzes Groundwater in Fayetteville Shale

The U.S. Geological Survey released findings this week from a review of 127 domestic water wells to determine the potential effects of natural gas production on groundwater.  After analyzing water samples for major ions, trace metals and methane, USGS scientists definitively concluded that the quality of water found in these wells is the result of natural processes.

Here’s what it said: "Although preproduction water-quality data were lacking for the wells sampled for this study, geochemical data presented a well-defined pattern of geochemical evolution based on natural rock-water and microbially mediated processes, strongly suggesting that the resulting water quality is derived from these natural processes with no effects from gas-production activities."

The sampled wells are located in Arkansas' Van Buren and Faulkner Counties, which is part of the Fayetteville Shale – a rich deposit of gas located 1,500 to 6,500 feet beneath the surface. Ninety-four of the wells tested were located less than 2 miles from a gas production well, and 33 were located 2 miles or more from a gas production well.

The study finds:

  • No statistical difference between chloride concentrations when comparing wells less than 2 miles from natural gas production to wells more than 2 miles from natural gas production
  • Of the 51 samples analyzed for methane concentration, only 7 samples had a concentration greater than or equal to 0.5 mg/L. Analysis of these samples shows that the methane was likely biogenic in origin.

We accept the findings of this study as further evidence that natural gas development can be done safely and responsibly.

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