USGS Finds No Water Pollution from Arkansas Fracking

Published October 17, 2011

The U.S. Geological Survey reports no signs of pollution in 71 water wells tested near hydraulic fracturing natural gas production sites in Van Buren County, Arkansas. The tests were conducted after local residents expressed fears that hydraulic fracturing – otherwise known as fracking – might be polluting local groundwater.

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,” said U.S. Geological Survey water quality specialist Tim Kresse. 

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

“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 upper-range chloride levels, Kresse reported current chloride 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, with testing showing 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 water testing in Van Buren County cost approximately $84,000.