Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


CORRIER, Kristen Lee1, BROWN, Terri2, MCKINNEY, Michael L.3, HREN, Michael3 and TSCHAPLINSKI, Timothy J.4, (1)Environmental Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, (2)Earth and Planetary Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, (3)Earth and Planetary Science, The University of Tennessee, 306 Earth and Planetary Sciences Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-1410, (4)Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831,

Hydraulic fracturing (“hydro-fracking”) is an increasingly common method of extracting natural gas from the geologic deposits of the Appalachian region. This method injects highly pressurized fluids into hydrocarbon-containing reservoir rocks in order to accelerate the extraction of hydrocarbons such as methane and petroleum compounds.

Hydro-fracking is controversial because of its potential impact in the contamination of ground waters and surface waters. Several previous studies have raised concern that this is a problem. However, it is often difficult to conclusively prove that a particular hydro-fracking operation is in fact causing contamination.

Hydro-fracking operations are widespread in several watersheds to the Northwest of the University of Tennessee. In many cases, these watersheds are relatively pristine and still maintain a very rich aquatic biodiversity. This would include the South Fork of the Cumberland River, Clear Fork, the Clinch River and the Powell River.

We examined the hypothesis that hydro-fracking operations can be detected in downstream surface waters using chemical analyses. If true, this could be a very useful tool as an environmental indicator to study the impact of these increasingly common operations. We took water samples from several areas downstream of hydro-fracking operations and analyzed them for traces of methane and other hydrocarbons, heavy metals including arsenic, biocides and detergents. Water samples were analyzed with gas chromatography, inductively coupled plasma and a field meter. Our findings are very tentative but they are suggestive of the possibility that a geochemical signature may in fact exist although much further work is required.