Fracking Suspected in Barnett Shale Water Problems

Two more water contamination incidents in Texas may be related to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Barnett Shale, according to a report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Both incidents occurred in Wise County, and one involves benzene, a known carcinogen.

The first incident occurred on property belonging to Larry Bisidas, who has actually been in the business of drilling water wells in the area for 40 years. Since gas drillers started drilling in Wise County, Bisidas said he has noticed changes in water quality, according to a report in the WC Messenger. Now, two wells that have provided his property with fresh water for three decades have turned to brine. The water is undrinkable because it has become so salty, forcing Bisidas to buy bottled water.

“It wasn’t until they drilled a gas well across from my home that they went bad,” Bisidas told WC Messenger. “They also put an injection well about a quarter-mile down the road.”

According to the WC Messenger, a layer of salt water lays beneath the Trinity aquifer that provides fresh water to Bisidas’ wells. Bisidas said if a company drilling and fracking a gas well does not seal it deep enough, salty water will push upward and contaminate the fresh, upper layer.

“They aren’t running the service pipe deep enough through the Trinity,” Bisidas said. “That’s what happened across from my house. They needed to go 800 feet deep. I watched them, and I know they didn’t have enough pipe on that truck.” He also told WC Messenger that he has seen similar problems with well water all over Wise County.

Another Wise County couple has an even bigger problem with their water – benzene contamination. Shortly after hydraulic fracturing began on two natural gas wells bordering their property, Catherine and Brett Bledsoe said their water began to sting their eyes in the shower, and their animals refused to drink it. According to the NRDC, testing the Bledsoe’s paid for found benzene in their well water. The levels found were double what the US Environmental Protection Agency considers safe.

So far, according to WC Messenger, the Bledsoe’s have received little help for their water problems. They appealed once to the Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (UTGCD), but they said nothing was done.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting water, sand, and a cocktail of chemicals at high pressure into shale rock formations thousands of feet into the ground to force natural gas to the surface. Thanks to the 2005 Energy Act, hydraulic fracturing is exempt from federal regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result, drillers are not required to disclose the chemicals that make up fracking fluids. Some studies of fracking fluids have found they may contain among other things, barium, strontium, benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, 2-(2-methoxyethoxy) ethanol, and nonylphenols. All have been linked to health disorders when human exposure is too high.

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