Fracking Fluid Can Migrate Into Marcellus Aquifers, New Study Says


A new study estimates that fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region can migrate into underground drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously estimated.

The study, based on computer modeling and funded by opponents of fracking, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus shale, exacerbated by the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could allow chemicals to reach shallow drinking water supplies in as little as “just a few years.”

Companies involved in fracking for natural gas have maintained that impermeable layers of rock in the Marcellus Shale formation would keep fracking fluids safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. But independent hydrologist Tom Myers, who published his study in the journal Ground Water, says his modeling shows that is not the case. “Simply put, [the rock layers]are not impermeable,” said Myers.

The Marcellus Shale underlies large portions of the northeastern U.S., and thousands of fracking wells have been drilled in recent years. The study was funded by two organizations opposed to gas fracking, and some scientists strongly disagree with its conclusions.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.


  1. They want to frac the karoo in south africa.could this have an effect on the underground water there?there are many farmers in the karoo most rely on this,also the water is bottled by several companies including coca cola,will fracing the karoo for shale gas not pose a great threat to this already water scarce region?