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December 11, 2016
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Watching water quality: ‘Monitoring for Natural Gas Development’ underway

DRBC staff conduct biomonitoring surveys at Barney Hollow near Downsville, Delaware County, NY.

Fikslin noted that gas companies will be required to do biomonitoring at pad sites. Another new measure will involve ranking the constituents in flowback water from hydraulic fracturing, which differs substantially from wastewater treatment plant effluent or non-point runoff. Flowback water contains constituents generated from the formation itself, and aquatic life is very sensitive to these, according to Fikslin. The DRBC’s draft regulations would require sampling for those constituents after a well has been stimulated.

The DRBC is also conducting a re-analysis of 711 water samples, 284 of which were collected in 2009 and 2010 from the Upper Delaware River and archived at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The samples will be analyzed for selected parameters identified in flowback samples, such as barium, strontium, bromide and sulfate.

Another area of concern is conductivity, according to Fikslin, and the agency is making use of devices called HOBO Loggers that measure temperature and conductivity for months. Current conditions indicate very low conductivity, with few ions and metals present. The monitors would potentially document pollution events that could be traced to natural gas development. DRBC regulations would require drillers to install the HOBO meters upstream and downstream of their well pad sites.

Docket holders for natural gas permits would also be required to do surface and groundwater monitoring at intervals including pre-site alteration, following each hydraulic fracturing and annually during production periods.

Representative groundwater wells would be required within
2,000 feet of well pads and at least one upstream and downstream surface water monitoring site would be installed to help identify the source of any chemicals found in the water.
Fikslin confirmed that long-standing policy under the Clean Water Act allows the companies to collect and analyze their own data, but added that the DRBC intends to also employ independent monitoring. He added that the proposed regulations call for the tracking of water used in the natural gas extraction process from its source to flowback to treatment.