WVU Researchers Publish Fracking Study
Morgantown Dominion Post 27 June 2014
By David Beard
Three WVU researchers developed recommendations for reducing the
environmental and human health effects associated with the
The recommendations, the result of a study recently accepted by
the prestigious British Royal Society of Chemistry, address air,
noise and light pollution; water management; and engineering flaws
associated with horizontal gas well development and completion, a
WVU release says. They are based on WVU studies performed for the
state Department of Environmental Protection in response to a
"We wanted to share our findings with not only the people of West
Virginia, but also within a broader community of scientists
through this current publication," co-author Michael McCawley
said, "with hopes that there will be further discussion of the
ideas we present as well as possible suggestions for alternative
The study is called "Practical measures for reducing the risk of
environmental contamination in shale energy production." It was
written by Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water
Research Institute; John Quaranta, assistant professor of
environmental engineering at the Benjamin M. Statler College of
Engineering and Mineral Resources; and McCawley, interim chairman
of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health
Sciences at the School of Public Health.
The authors discussed some of the issues raised by that horizontal
drilling and hydraulic fracturing process that helped spur the
shale gas boom.
"While most shale gas wells are completed with little or no
environmental contamination, " Ziemkiewicz said, "we found that
many of the problems associated with shale gas development
resulted from inattention to accepted engineering practices such
as impoundment construction, improper liner installation and a
lack of institutional controls."
Ideally and usually, liquid solid and gaseous wastes are
contained, they said. "However, the care exercised by the various
production companies and their contractors also varies, " the
study said. "As a result, contaminant leakage occurs at some
undetermined rate across the [Marcellus] basin."
Also, as production increases, they said, well pads move closer to
communities, increasing the potential for exposure to hazards and
Shallow wells are subject to contamination. "As a result, many of
the public's concerns focus on air and groundwater pollution as
well as light and noise associated with drilling and well
completion," the study said.
The debate about self-regulation versus government regulation
continues, they said.
"The industry recognizes the need to maintain its social license;
and the unconventional gas industry's Marcellus Shale Coalition
has developed an exhaustive listing of recommended practices," the
"Needed are objective measures of compliance and environmental
performance so that weaknesses can be identified and appropriate
regulatory schemes implemented that encouraged innovation and
productivity without compromising the environment or public
The study will be included in the Royal Society of Chemistry's
"Journal of Environmental Science: Processes and Impacts" special
collection on the topic of hydraulic fracturing for the July
The study is part of WVU's Mountains of Excellence research
emphasis on utilizing shale gas responsibly.
Many of the recommendations are familiar in West Virginia and
nearby fracking areas as they have been presented to the state
Legislature or have been in discussion among the region's
stakeholder groups, or both.