Feds Find No Water Pollution from Arkansas Fracking

Published November 19, 2011

After testing 71 water wells near hydraulic fracturing natural gas production sites, the U.S. Geological Survey reports no signs of any water pollution. The tests were conducted in Van Buren County, Arkansas after local residents expressed fears hydraulic fracturing— known as fracking—might be polluting local water resources.

Seventy-One Wells Sampled

The U.S. Geological Survey collected water samples from the 71 wells and sent them to Duke University for comprehensive chemical testing. The samples were collected in July, with the U.S. Geological Survey announcing the results October 12. 

“The short of the story is we didn’t find any indication of impacts of the shale gas,” reported U.S. Geological Survey water quality specialist Tim Kresse. 

No Sign of Pollution

The testing focused on chloride levels, which would be elevated in water samples if the water was interacting with fracking fluids, Kresse explained. 

“There’s one parameter that’s very important for me as kind of a tracer for any kind of potential kind of contamination, and that’s chloride,” Kresse observed.

Comparing current chloride levels to historical chloride levels, Kresse reported current levels “didn’t have anything near historical values, much less anything that would alert me to problems.”

Kresse noted the U.S. Geological Survey also had the water tested for methane, and there was no sign of methane pollution either.

“Overall, the water quality was good, and I was happy with the results,” Kresse reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey will continue testing water in other Arkansas counties. The Geological Survey reports the water testing in Van Buren County cost approximately $84,000.

Environmentally Responsible Production

“The Fayetteville Shale gas deposits have been an economic boon to Arkansas. My general experience with the companies drilling in Arkansas is that they have shown themselves to be environmentally responsible while providing Arkansas with great jobs and a great source of energy,” said Rep. Andrea Lea (R-Russellville). 

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.