You can’t drink money — or well water, apparently

by karlhenk

Youngstown, Ohio — Columbus resident and fracking protester Jenny Morgan last week serenaded the Ohio Statehouse with her song, “You Can’t Drink Money.”

It was a reference to the possible water contamination from fracking for natural gas and oil, a billion-dollar industry.

But new data shows that many Pennsylvania water wells aren’t contaminated as a result of fracking.

They’re just poorly constructed.

According to data from Penn State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, 40 percent of all water wells in Pennsylvania “fail to meet at least one safe-drinking water standard.”

“While proper well construction does not completely eliminate water-quality problems, it clearly plays a role in preventing surface contaminants from getting into wells,” said Bryan Swistock, senior water resources extension associate at PSU with more than two decades of water-well experience. “Our research has shown that inadequate water-well construction is a contributing factor to the failure of some private wells to meet safe-drinking-water standards.”

Coliform bacteria was found in nearly one-third of water wells; E. coli bacteria, which originate from either animal or human wastes and thus represent a more serious health risk, were found in 14 percent of water wells.

This poses a health issue, especially in a time when many residents are fearful that chemicals from fracking will find their way into water wells.

Fracking is a process in which water, chemicals and sand are blasted into rocks thousands of feet below the ground to unlock natural gas and oil.

The drilling industry has come under fire for its reluctance to publicly disclose the chemicals used in the process, which, if spilled on the surface, can possibly contaminate water wells, even more so if the wells are poorly constructed like in Swistock’s study.

Swistock’s analysis also screams for the need for residents to get their water wells tested, not just prior to fracking to set a water quality baseline, but also to protect their health regardless of any drilling activities.

As it pertains to fracking, the Environmental Protection Agency is doing just that. It had previously selected seven locations gearing up for fracking activities for an environmental study.

But landowners shouldn’t rely on the EPA.

Christopher Baronzzi, an attorney with the Youngstown law firm Harrington, Hoppe & Mitchell, said all landowners — including those with water-protection clauses in leases — should conduct baseline-water tests before any drilling activity.

But as the stats in Pennsylvania show, the real threat could be poorly constructed and maintained wells, and it’s in a landowner’s best interest to get his or her well water tested on a regular basis.

Sure, it will cost a little money — around $100 for a basic test here in Mahoning County.

But as Morgan implies in her anti-fracking song, wait too long and you won’t be able to drink that water, or your money.

There’s much more on this subject at

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