GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) - High levels of contaminants, including arsenic are present, according to a University of Texas at Arlington study, in private water wells near gas operations. The study is one of the first water quality studies completed in North Texas since gas drilling expanded.
The study however, doesn't say that hydraulic fracturing contaminated groundwater. But it does show that heavy metals are present in higher concentrations near natural gas wells in the Barnett Shale. "Given the controversial nature of the topic, we were incredibly surprised, and that kind of built on our excitement to get out there and do this," said study author, Zac Hildenbrand.
Hildebrand and a team of researchers gathered samples from 100 water wells for an entire summer. All of the samples contained a common contaminant -- aresenic.
A third of the wells had arsenic present at unsafe levels in the water. Levels were at their highest at wells within a kilometer of active gas operations.
"If I was one of the well owners that had arsenic levels, 16 times the safe level, we did find one sample that high, naturally that shouldn't be going on in this aquifer," said another author of the study, Brian Fontenot.
Chemicals used in the fracking process, often feared as water contaminants, weren't found in the samples. A finding gas industry advocates were quick to point out. Researchers said more testing is needed to determine the link between proximity to gas wells and water contamination.
"We don't have a smoking gun. Everyone wants to have a smoking gun on an issue like this, and it's just too complex."
The UTA researchers are working on a similar project West Texas' Permian Basin, procuring water samples there before drilling begins.
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