Northeastern (46th Annual) and North-Central (45th Annual) Joint Meeting (20–22 March 2011)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


JOB, Stephen L., Earth Sciences Department, State University of New York, College at Oneonta, Oneonta, NY 13820 and CASTENDYK, Devin N., Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, State University of New York, College at Oneonta, Oneonta, NY 13820,

The Butternut Creek is a 50-km-long tributary of the Unadilla River located near the western boarder of Otsego County, New York. The Butternut discharges into the Unadilla River in Mount Upton which joins the Susquehanna River 12 km to the south. The Butternut Watershed is roughly 750 m above the gas-bearing Marcellus Shale formation, and roughly 1500 m above the Utica Shale formation. Land within the watershed has been leased for the drilling of horizontal natural gas wells. Residents are concerned that gas well development could potentially contaminate ground and surface water resources with hydraulic fracturing fluids, shale brines, methane gas, and turbidity, and affect the natural discharge of the Butternut Creek. The objectives of this study were to establish baseline surface water characteristics and seasonal discharge of the Butternut Creek prior to natural gas exploration. We present seven months of water chemistry and discharge data measured weekly between August 30th, 2010, and March 18th, 2011. Samples were collected below the County Route 3 Bridge in Mount Upon, 1.3 km upstream of the confluence with the Unadilla. This location was selected in an effort to summarize the characteristics of the entire Butternut Watershed. Three filtered water samples were collected each week to test for dissolved anions, alkalinity, and cations. Field observations included pH, temperature, electrical conductivity, turbidity, stream discharge, and stream height. At SUNY Oneonta, dissolved Cl-, SO42-, NO3-, and PO43- analyses were performed using a Hach 2800 Spectrophotometer, and alkalinity was measured by titration. Cation samples were acidified to pH 2 in the field and analyzed for 66 elements using an ICP/MS by Activation Laboratories in Ancaster, Ontario. Preliminary data from late summer to winter 2010 show that Cl- ranged from 7.3 to 20 mg/L; SO42- 2 to 6 mg/L; NO3- 0.4 to 1.1 mg/L; PO43- 0.04 to 0.16 mg/L; HCO3- 9.8 to 180 mg/L; pH 6.65 to 7.78; turbidity 3.02 to 37.2 NTU; and electrical conductivity 70 to 180 µS/cm. A four month hydrograph shows that stream discharge ranged from 1.03 m3/sec to 7.10 m3/sec over this period. From these data, we will statistically define the range of natural variation of water quality parameters. Future observations that are significantly outside of this range may indicate anthropogenic impacts.