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How Fracking Affects Our Water

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  • Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center
fracking tanks

5:15 Reception

6:00 Lecture

Abstract: Development of drilling into horizontal layers of gas-containing shale, followed by high-pressure high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has ushered in a new era of energy development in the USA. At the same time, like older hydrocarbon-extraction industries, shale-gas development has resulted in some water quality impacts. In the mid-2000s, public outcry about “fracking” reached a fever pitch whereas today, the pushback continues but is more muted. In this talk I will look at what has been learned over the last decade and a half about water impacts related to shale development and fracking, including case studies at individual field sites as well as broader state-wide or national investigations. Most of my work has focused on Pennsylvania, a state with the longest history of commercial hydrocarbon extraction in the world, but we also have extended to national analyses. As concluded by others, the frequency of impact is low compared to the number of shale gas wells. But several studies have shown evidence for some health impacts for residents living near shale-gas wells. Government, academic, and industry entities must work more closely with communities to provide and publicize water quality data to document impacts more accurately and to understand case examples of contamination affecting residents or businesses. Only with such approaches will we enable the public to make decisions about the “social license” for the industry or enable decision-makers to provide guidance for this highly distributed industry.


Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center

Room 0202


For disability accommodations, please contact Wenlu Zhu at

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