Tests indicate no change in water quality from drilling in Marcellus Shale

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) today released its third report on water quality conditions in select watersheds in the Marcellus shale region of the Susquehanna River Basin.

Prior to 2010, when SRBC began collecting the data through its state-of-the-art Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network (RWQMN), little to no water quality data existed for many smaller streams in northern Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York. SRBC’s first report in 2012 established existing conditions within the first 37 of 59 watersheds that SRBC is monitoring through the RWQMN. This third report provides a more comprehensive report of conditions across the full monitoring network.

“The Commission takes very seriously one of its core functions of monitoring water quality conditions in the streams and rivers of the Susquehanna Basin,” said SRBC Executive Director Andrew Dehoff. “This third report provides more information on the data collected as part of the Commission’s effort to evaluate whether or not water quality conditions in streams are reflecting impacts associated with natural gas drilling.”

SRBC’s objective of the RWQMN is to apply best available science to track changes in water quality conditions over time and to allow for timely responses in the case of pollution events. Other objectives are to reduce the cost of data collection by using advanced technologies, to enhance water supply protection through source water monitoring, and to be responsive to public concerns.

Each RWQMN station is equipped with sensors that can continuously detect changes in water quality. The water quality parameters are measured at five-minute intervals and transmitted to SRBC headquarters in Harrisburg every two to four hours.

Of the 58 watersheds covered in this report, SRBC has observed:

  • with continuous monitoring from 2010-2013, data collected did not indicate any changes in water quality;
  • with a few exceptions, the water chemistry at the monitoring stations indicates good water quality; and
  • the results of aquatic insect monitoring were not affected by the density of upstream natural gas wells or pads.

As more stations accumulate additional years of continuous data, SRBC staff will be able to detect any longer-term water quality trends in addition to immediate impacts.