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Published: Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:04 p.m.
Updated: Saturday, July 21, 2012

Speculation and misinformation about hydraulic fracturing have run rampant throughout Pennsylvania. Luckily, a new Duke University study lays concerns about groundwater contamination via hydraulic fracturing to rest.

The study found that salts from the Marcellus shale could travel upward over thousands of years to reach groundwater, but did not find contamination from hydraulic fracturing.

Researchers examined 426 groundwater samples from six Pennsylvania counties atop the Marcellus shale. While some samples did contain salts from deep in the Marcellus shale, the salts traveled to the groundwater through natural fissures, likely over thousands of years. Even with the natural salts, the researchers ruled that the water was suitable for drinking.

The takeaway from this study is that hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus shale has not contaminated groundwater in that region and is not likely to. Intense pressure under the Earth’s surface occasionally pushes natural contaminants up toward the surface through natural pathways; conversely, hydraulic fracturing releases downward pressure, drawing the gas and other materials away from groundwater supplies.

Despite much hand-wringing and exaggeration, this study provides further evidence of hydraulic fracturing’s strong safety record.

Thomas J. Pyle

Washington, D.C.

The writer is president of the Institute for Energy Research (