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article imageMethane from fracking contaminates Pennsylvania water supplies

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By Tim Sandle     Aug 29, 2012 in Environment
Dangerous levels of methane have appeared in water supplies in Leroy Township, Pennsylvania. The appearance of the gas appears to be the result of fracking activities, leading to a fine being levelled on the well operator Chesapeake Energy.
On several occasions during the summer, methane gas has entered the water supply and the contamination affected several properties in Leroy Township in the US state of Pennsylvania, according to Eco Watch. The risk from the methane is not only pollution of the water, making in unfit for consumption, for there is also a risk of explosion.
The contaminated water has, understandably, caused concern to several local families, NPR reported. One resident, Mike Leighton, said of the incidents "The newspapers keep minimizing the damage here, but it's here. And people think we're radicals, but we're not. We're just upset about the condition of our property, and we want things fixed. I want my real estate back to where it was before. And right now, it ain't worth dirt."
Methane is the main component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel. However, it can also be toxic and explosive under the wrong conditions and in the wrong location.
According to Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection the appearance of methane and other chemicals is the result of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations. The methane gas leaked out of the well operated by Chesapeake Energy and into the water supplies of some residential properties.
Fracking is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. Fracking involves breaking-up shale rock with explosives, then flushing gas out of the ground using millions of gallons of water. There is a risk from the process that methane gas can be forced upwards and can enter water supplies. The activity has proved controversial due to the potential negative health and environmental repercussions from the activity. There are, however, counter arguments which extoll the positive economic benefits tied to safe American natural gas development.
Since the incident Chesapeake has installed ventilation systems at the two water wells. Despite this, residents have been warned that the risk of natural gas in the water remains. This did not prevent the company from being fined $190,000 by state officials for unsafe practices.
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