DISSOLVED METHANE IN GROUNDWATER AND SPECIFIC CONDUCTANCE OF STREAMS IN NEW YORK – A RETROSPECTIVE AND CURRENT EVALUATION OF WATER-QUALITY CONDITIONS
Two concerns with the potential development of HVHF in New York are related to (1) contamination of groundwater and surface water from the entire drilling and hydraulic-fracturing process, and (2) the release of ‘stray’ natural gas during and following the drilling of these wells. The need for background water-quality data for New York’s water resources has been partially met through former and ongoing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data-collection and analysis programs.
In the 1970s, specific conductance data were collected in about 130 surface water sub-basins in upstate New York, providing a qualitative assessment of surface water. Beginning in the early 1990s the USGS conducted studies which required the collection of dissolved gas samples (including methane) to determine the age of groundwater. Under the cooperative New York State/USGS groundwater monitoring program (305B), dissolved-gas samples were added in 2009 to improve knowledge about methane in drinking water in anticipation to shale-gas development. By 2013 dissolved methane data had been collected from approximately 400 public and private drinking water wells in all major river basins of New York.
Most recently, the study of dissolved methane in groundwater and the specific conductance of streams have been focused on the central southern tier counties of New York, across the border from several northern tier counties of Pennsylvania where shale-gas development is ongoing. Results of these studies provide an initial baseline from which future changes in surface water and groundwater quality.