Northeastern Section - 48th Annual Meeting (18–20 March 2013)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 11:10 AM


LAUTZ, Laura K.1, HOKE, Gregory D.1, LU, Zunli1 and SIEGEL, Donald I.2, (1)Department of Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, 204 Heroy Geology Laboratory, Syracuse, NY 13244, (2)Earth Sciences, Syracuse University, Heroy Geological Laboratory, Syracuse, NY 13244,

The Marcellus and Utica shales of the Appalachian basin of New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia contain one of the world’s largest natural gas reservoirs. Recovery of this resource requires the “unconventional” technique of hydraulic fracturing (“hydrofracking”), which has generated controversy with respect to potential impacts on regional water quality. New York State (NYS) has placed a moratorium on shale gas development and there is currently intense debate throughout New York regarding the future of hydrofracking regulations in the State. Public concern is largely focused on maintaining the integrity of the region’s water quality and supply. Unfortunately, public debate has not been well informed by data, and energy companies have only now begun to disclose pre-drilling environmental water quality studies.

Project SWIFT (Shale-Water Interaction Forensic Tools) at Syracuse University aims to create a pre-hydraulic fracturing snapshot of background water quality in the Southern Tier counties of NYS, where drilling will likely be approved. In summer 2012, we sampled stream water (n=19) and groundwater (n=60) from domestic water supply wells drilled into bedrock within a regularly spaced grid. We collected samples from private water wells drilled into bedrock throughout 4 counties identified for future Marcellus Shale drilling. Samples were analyzed for a suite of cations, anions, trace metals, and isotopes. We compared the geochemistry of shallow groundwater and stream water to published geochemical data for Appalachian Basin brines sampled in southern NYS. Geochemical mixing relationships indicate the presence of minor amounts (<1%) of formation brines in shallow groundwater in the absence of hydraulic fracturing. Our geochemical results indicate halogens and elemental ratios may be the best indicators of salinity derived from mixing with formation waters, versus salinity derived from other sources. We plan to improve public access to water quality data by making our data available through a web-hosted GIS interface. We also hope to develop sensitive new tracers aimed at unequivocally identifying whether contamination related to hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus occurs or not. Please visit our website at