December 30, 2013

EDITORIAL: Fracking's impact on water supplies looking better

Source:, December 26, 2013

Fracking has caused a bonanza of oil and gas production in the United States, but it has its detractors. And one of their chief complaints was that it used too much water, as much as five million gallons per well, even though it accounts for less than 1 percent of the water consumed in a big oil-producing state like Texas.

Yet a new study by the University of Texas at Austin indicates that fracking actually cuts overall water use for energy. As the price of natural gas has declined, some utilities have switched to using gas instead of coal to produce electricity. The amount of water saved by shifting a power plant to gas from coal is 25 to 50 times greater than the amount needed to get the natural gas via fracking.

Trade-offs like that must be kept in mind when looking at energy production and use in this country. No aspect of this complex equation is pure. For example, wind farms have been increasingly criticized for their large numbers of bird deaths caused by turbine blades.

Even if alternative forms of energy like wind and solar can increase in coming years, oil and natural gas will remain fundamental to our energy needs. And the bottom line on fracking is that it has produced so much oil and gas that this country is less dependent than ever on oil imports from the volatile Mideast.

Fracking should be monitored wherever it occurs to ensure it doesn’t drain area water supplies or contaminate ground water. But the pluses far outweigh the drawbacks, which is why few states or locales have banned it nationwide.


October 7, 2013

Potential Groundwater Contamination Leads to Lawsuit

Read here about Louisiana companies being sued over groundwater contamination that may leach into a city’s water supply.


August 6, 2013

Study: pathways for gas migration into groundwater not created by hydraulic fracturing

Source:, July 30, 2013
By: Wayne J. D’Angelo, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

The image of water flowing from a tap being ignited with a lighter has become heavily associated with hydraulic fracturing in the minds of the public. But a research paper produced by the National Ground Water Association suggests this widespread image may be a mirage. The paper, published in the May/June issue of the journal Groundwater, details the results of a study of 1,701 water quality analyses from drinking water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The study found that the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction has not created pathways for rapid gas migration into shallow groundwater. Rather, the concentration of methane in the region’s groundwater is disproportionally high in water wells located in valleys, regardless of their proximity to shale gas wells. The findings suggest that the topography of the region, rather than shale gas development, explains elevated methane levels in Susquehanna County water wells. The paper’s authors extrapolate that the findings have significant implications for the understanding of risks associated with shale gas extraction.

The authors also examined the results of isotropic and molecular analyses of hydrocarbon gases from 15 water wells in Susquehanna County by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA, and concluded that the gases in the water wells are most consistent with those found in the spaces around the casings of local gas wells. These gases originate in relatively shallow shale formations, and do not exhibit features consistent with gas produced from deeper Marcellus shale.

These findings, while significant, are very much consistent with numerous other studies across the nation, none of which have found an instance of methane contamination in water from the fracturing of shale well below the aquifer.

With assistance from Andrew McNamee


May 28, 2013

Pipeline Company Sued Over Water Contamination

Read here about a Kansas pipeline company that has been sued by some residents over water contamination.


April 16, 2013

Companies reach settlement for superfund cleanup in New Jersey

Source:, April 5, 2013
By: David Erickson and Mark Anstoetter, Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has entered a consent decree calling for two companies to conduct a cleanup and reimburse EPA’s cleanuprelated costs at the Puchack Well Field Superfund site in Pennsauken, New Jersey. United States v. SL Indus., Inc., No: 1:13-cv-01690, (D.N.J. 3/19/13). The site allegedly contains chromium-contaminated groundwater. The two companies have agreed to pay more than $10.7 million in past EPA response costs, reimburse EPA’s future response costs and design and implement the Operable Unit 2 (OU2) remedy to clean up source areas that contribute to the chromium in groundwater. EPA completed the remedial investigation and feasibility study for OU2 in June 2011. It targets a former chromium plating operation as well as “any other areas that have levels of hexavalent chromium in soils that are a continued threat to further groundwater contamination.” The agreement is subject to public comment and court approval; comments must be submitted within 30 days of the March 25, 2013, Federal Register publication date.


December 10, 2012

Modesto, county trying to solve landfill cleanup dispute

Source: Modesto Bee (CA), November 28, 2012
Posted on:

Stanislaus County and Modesto are in a legal dispute regarding who is responsible for environmental work and the cleanup of pollutants that are released from the former Geer Road landfill.

In April 2011, state authorities ordered the county to take more aggressive cleanup action for a toxic groundwater plume, which has moved slowly from the closed landfill to the edge of the Tuolumne River.

The former garbage dump lies several miles southeast of Modesto and about a mile northeast of Hughson.

The county claimed in a lawsuit last year that Modesto is responsible for all or part of the costs of dealing with toxic substances that continue to emanate from the buried garbage.

In May 2010, tests found dangerous concentrations of toxins in places under the 167-acre landfill, including vinyl chloride; 1,2 dichloroethane; and dichlorodifluoro-methane, also known as Freon-12. The first two chemicals are suspected of causing cancer.

Modesto was the largest generator of garbage that was taken to the Geer Road dump from 1970 through December 1990, when the landfill was closed. The city says in an August 2011 countersuit, however, that the county was responsible for cleanup costs.

The countersuit argues that a 1970 city-county agreement regarding the landfill spelled out that the county had full responsibility for the maintenance, operation and control of the garbage dump. City legal staff did not return calls Tuesday.…

October 19, 2012

Cotter cleanup reduced in scope

Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO), October 17, 2012
Posted on:

A new cleanup standard for molybdenum levels in groundwater has drastically reduced the size of a cleanup area contaminated by the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community became a part of a federal Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup site in 1984 after molybdenum and uranium contamination seeped from unlined tailings ponds into the groundwater.

As of Feb. 1, the state Water Quality Control Commission standard for cleanup of molybdenum in water will be 210 micrograms per liter, up from the previous standard of 35 micrograms per liter, according to a fact sheet issued by state health officials Tuesday.

Despite the change, Cotter will be required to clean up groundwater at any reading above 100 micrograms per liter because that standard is required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A map included with the fact sheet shows two small plumes targeted for cleanup.

“This means that 16 wells previously included in the more conservative standard are now outside the plume boundary. Only six wells are inside the Lincoln Park plume,” according to the fact sheet.

“I object to this change in the moly standard for groundwater as I believe from studies I’ve read that it will have an adverse impact on health (of people) through bones, gout and arthritis when drinking well water at this level,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “This will allow Cotter to avoid protective cleanup.”

The fact sheet indicates the most common negative health effect from consuming too much molybdenum for a long period of time is gout.

Wells that are located within the contamination area are not being used for human consumption. Instead residents have been hooked up to the city water supply.

“Groundwater contaminate levels in most areas have been decreasing even though there is no active groundwater cleanup action in place in the area,” according to the fact sheet.


June 18, 2012

Naturally occurring level of chromium 6 in Hinkley may never be known

Source: San Bernardino County Sun, June 14, 2012
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How much of the cancer-causing chemical chromium 6 is naturally occurring in the Hinkley Valley?

Board members of the water agency which is overseeing the cleanup of Hinkley’s contaminated groundwater are beginning to see that the answer to that question may never be known.

And they want Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board officials to pursue finding out if a new study can reasonably be expected to determine how much chromium 6 was in the water before San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric Co. began dumping it into unlined ponds, where it seeped in the groundwater, creating a plume that is thought to be more than 5 miles long and nearly 2 miles wide.

The question is important because it sets up what level PG & E needs to reach in order to return to the Hinkley Valley to its natural state.

For a time, water board officials and others thought they had that number.

A study PG & E commissioned at the request of the water board in 2007 found that upper end of the naturally occurring chromium 6 was 3.1 parts per billion.…

May 18, 2012

Vermont bans hydraulic fracturing

Source: Business Insurance, May 17, 2012
By: Judy Greenwald

Vermont became the first state in the country to ban the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, which is widely known as fracking, when Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the ban into law Wednesday.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process that uses high-pressure water, sand and chemicals to free natural gas from subterranean shale deposits.

The legislation, H. 464, states the ban, which takes immediate effect, should be repealed “when hydraulic fracturing can be conducted without risk of contamination to the groundwater of Vermont.”

In signing the legislation, Gov. Shumlin said: “This bill will ensure we do not inject chemicals into groundwater in a desperate pursuit for energy. It is a big moment. I hope other states will follow us. The science on fracking is uncertain at best. Let the other states be the guinea pigs. Let the Green Mountain State preserve its clean water, its lakes, its rivers and its quality of life.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new standards last month intended to reduce air pollution associated with natural gas production, but observers say it will do little to quell controversy surrounding fracking.…

April 12, 2012

Courthouse Not Only Pollution

Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM), April 8, 2012
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Groundwater pollution got a lot of attention in recent years, as Santa Fe County found itself having to clean up petroleumcontaminated dirt and water in the construction of the new courthouse at Montezuma Avenue and Sandoval Street.

But that’s not the only pollution plume in the City Different. The county has a handful of “brownfields.”

One got a spate of publicity through the 1990s, when groundwater pollution led to occasional closures of the city’s Baca Street Well. A PNM service site and generating station — a substation and transmission line are still on that site, along with an easement for a walking trail — was blamed for that plume of gasoline-related contaminants covering around five acres in the area of Baca Street and Cerrillos Road.

And, although the company never accepted full blame, it continues to run monitoring wells and a pump to clean up the water in that area. “In the next five years, we expect to spend $350,000” to monitor and treat the water, said PNM spokeswoman Susan Sponar.

No one was able to predict how long that water treatment will have to continue. It can stop only “when the concentration in groundwater meets standards,” said Dale Doremus, program manager for remedial oversight with the New Mexico Environment Department.

The good news is that the plume isn’t getting any bigger, according to Bart Faris, environmental scientist with the department’s Groundwater Quality Bureau.…