PA Pre-Drilling Water Quality Maps

PA Pre-Drilling Water Quality Maps

ArcGIS Explorer Online.

Mechanics of site:   Upper left there’s three icons.  One is layers.  Tab one on, then wells with that result come on map, then hit bottom icon which gives  you the legend for that ‘layer’.  Or tab them all and get the legend for all of them but then the map doesn’t make sense, too many colors.    

dunno what the point is of right-hand icons. and yeah, where’s before and after?  and summary/findings, this must be written up I’ve not been to site yet.
Dear colleagues and friends,
It appears that there has been some serious and unfortunate mis-communication about the water quality maps that I sent yesterday.  Some important clarifications need to be made so that misinformation
or misleading interpretations of these maps do not continue to circulate.

First, and very important, clarification is that these maps in no way link groundwater problems with gas drilling. I sent an email correcting someone on this fact earlier today and  somehow that email
has now re-circulated with the wording changed to say “it does” show a link. IT DOES NOT SHOW A LINK! I want to repeat here for everyone to see and know what I said– these maps DO NOT show evidence of a link between groundwater problems and contamination by shale gas drilling.  Here’s how you know that– when you click on the dots for barium, chloride, or TDS you will notice that there is a Sample Date. That is important. Some of the samples with the highest concentrations have a Sample Date in the 1980’s. The majority of samples that are mapped are “pre-drilling.” That means this data shows concentrations of these constituents in water wells BEFORE shale gas wells were drilled in the immediate area. It is spelled out clearly in the title of the map, “NE Pennsylvania Pre-Drilling Water Quality.” Yes, the gas wells are displayed alongside the results, (which could lead one to think they are somehow associated with the water tests), but notice that the black dots have no information associated with them, such as date drilled or permitted or even the name of the facility, so we don’t know exactly what this information means and we cannot draw ANY conclusions about the relationship between the black dots (wells) and the water wells. Period.

The second point of clarification is that I do not work for Appalachia Consulting and did not collect any of this data. I was simply forwarding information that is now on their website that I hoped would be useful and interesting to others.I am to blame, perhaps, as I did not explicitly spell out what this data shows, and it is evident from emails I am receiving that there are serious misinterpretations and that there is not a clear understanding of what pre-drilling or baseline sampling means or how to read a map such as this. It is in everyone’s best interest to get educated on baseline water testing and what it means if you are looking to show a link between shale gas drilling and water contamination. You must have baseline water testing to prove such contamination.

And, that leads me to the third clarification, this pre-drilling data is extremely important to academic researchers, citizens, decision-makers, lawmakers, and anyone who has an interest in making sure that shale gas drilling does not contaminate groundwater or do harm, and that when it does there is enough evidence to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that contamination has in fact occurred. Without pre-drilling, baseline data there will not be proof that contamination has occurred.  Jumping to conclusions about what these maps mean is putting this evidence in jeopardy.

And, fourth and finally, this is baseline data collected by a reputable, honest, and scientifically rigorous consulting firm and from private homeowners who have agreed to have their pre-drill testing data  displayed for informational purposes only. The consulting firm uses stringent chain of custody and quality assurance and quality control practices to ensure that their test results are indisputable. Please respect them both, the consulting firm and the homeowners. Is it interesting and important information? Yes. Is it useful for understanding how water wells could be impacted by drilling? Yes. Does it show that water wells are being impacted by drilling? Not yet.
Warmest regards,

Simona L. Perry, PhD
Research Scientist
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Science & Technology Studies
110 8th St.
Russell Sage Laboratory
Troy, New York 12180

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