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NEWS: Study on fracking indicates water contamination 1 kilometre from drill sites

Agence France Presse reports, “(A new study by Duke University researchers finds that) methane leaks are contaminating drinking water near shale gas drilling sites in the northeastern United States… Scientists tested water samples taken from 68 private wells in five counties in Pennsylvania and New York to explore accusations that ‘hydro-fracking’…has contaminated groundwater. Methane was found in 85 percent of the samples, and at sites within a kilometer of active hydraulic-fracturing operations, levels were 17 times higher than in wells far from such operations…”

The National Geographic Daily News notes, “The study’s findings indicate cause for concern within a much larger radius than previously imagined around drill sites. Pennsylvania state regulations, for example, presume the driller is at fault if contaminated water is found within 1,000 feet (305 meters) of a well within six months after that well’s completion. But the new research uncovered methane in wells at three times that distance.”

“The paper found no evidence of contamination from the chemicals used to fracture the rock or from ‘produced’ water — the wastewater that emerges from the wells after the shale has been fractured.” Still, “In a separate white paper, the researchers urged an independent medical review of the effects of ingesting methane and stricter regulation of hydraulic fracturing.”

The CBC adds, “The wells studied were not tested prior to companies starting to hydro-frack in the area, which means a before-and-after comparison is not available. (One of the Duke University researchers) said homeowners should be proactive when it comes to testing their own water before the mining companies start their work.”

THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO STUDY: In October 2010, a report released by the water program at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs highlighted, “To date, Canada has not developed adequate regulations or public policy to address the scale or cumulative impact of hydraulic fracking on water resources. …(Without a more robust regulatory approach) rapid shale gas development could potentially threaten important water resources, if not fracture the country’s water security,” Ben Parfitt, the report’s author, “said the federal government is virtually absent from the discussion, while provinces issue oil companies with individual water-use permits despite having little understanding of the cumulative impacts of increasing drilling activity, no public reporting on the chemicals or amount of industrial water withdrawals and no systematic mapping of the country’s aquifers. … The pace of the shale gas revolution demands greater scrutiny before more fracture lines appear across the country.”

CANADA: In September 2010, the Canadian Press reported that, “The Conservative government has been warned that drilling for shale gas could boost carbon-dioxide emissions, encroach on wildlife habitat and sap freshwater resources. …The risks are outlined in briefing notes prepared last spring for Natural Resources Minister Christian Paradis. (The briefing notes) warn the process of releasing natural gas from shale — called hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ — could draw heavily on freshwater resources and significantly increase Canada’s overall carbon-dioxide emissions. The documents also say projects in areas without infrastructure may require the construction of roads, drill pads and pipelines, which could create ‘extensive habitat fragmentation’ for wildlife.” In October 2010, the Canadian Press reported that, “(Envrionment minister) Jim Prentice says environmental regulations are still a work in progress for Canada’s booming shale gas industry, even though drills have already pierced the ground. …Mr. Prentice says environmental policies are still being drawn up, even though shale gas production is already underway in Western Canada.”

NEW BRUNSWICK: CBC reported this week that, “Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said her government is studying all of its options when it comes to putting in place a regulatory system for hydro-fracking. …(But) Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup has said the provincial government will not impose a moratorium on development. Instead, several cabinet ministers and civil servants have travelled to the United States and other Canadian provinces studying their hydro-fracking rules. The Progressive Conservative government has said there is no rush because a full share gas operation would not be ready for three to four years in New Brunswick. Several companies, such as SWN Resources Canada and Apache and Corridor Resources, are planning to drill for natural gas and oil.” The Times and Transcript notes, “Shale gas was a hot topic in the Legislature this past week as the Duke University study was brought up, with interim Liberal leader Victor Boudreau calling for a moratorium on shale gas development.”

QUEBEC: The Montreal Gazette reports, “The (Duke University) study is the first to show a scientifically based link between shale gas and groundwater contamination. It raises serious questions about the gas industry’s claim that exploration currently under way in Quebec’s Utica shales in the Montérégie is environmentally safe and won’t harm drinking water. Environmental concerns recently caused Quebec to tighten its regulations and forbid hydraulic fracturing until an environmental evaluation of the process is completed. Fracturing is allowed for research.”

ALBERTA: The Montreal Gazette also notes, “Similar water problems have occurred in Alberta where fracking is used to extract methane from coal seams. Intensive drilling and fracking took place in 2006 and 2007 in Rosebud, about an hour’s drive east of Calgary. Many residents suddenly discovered their well water burned their skin, caused rashes, headaches and contained so much methane it bubbled and could be set afire.”

ONTARIO: The Toronto Star reported in March 2010 that Calgary-based Mooncor Oil & Gas Corp. has been buying land rights in southwestern Ontario for shale gas drilling. Mooncor intends to drill in the Kettle Point Formation known as Antrim Shale in Lambton and Kent counties, and the Collingwood/Blue Mountain formations known as Utica Shale. “It has already locked up nearly 23,000 acres (9.30776 hectares) of land in Lambton and Kent counties.”

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Major activity is planned for the Horn River Formation, which is in north-eastern British Columbia extending to Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. Six areas in BC also hold coalbed methane natural gas potential: Peace country in the north east, Elk Valley in the southeast, Vancouver Island, the south central interior (around Merritt and Princeton), northwestern BC (around Telkwa and Iskut), and the Queen Charlotte Islands.

For more information on fracking in provinces across Canada, go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4993. Our campaign web-page on fracking can be read at http://canadians.org/fracking.