Comparing water quality in streams with and without UNGD in their watersheds
Unconventional natural gas development (UNGD) has proliferated in the Marcellus Shale region over the past decade. While instances of water contamination have been documented, the question of whether UNGD is associated with widespread impairment of stream water quality remains unanswered. We attempted to address this data gap by measuring water quality parameters (specific conductance, dissolved metal and radium) in streams in southwestern Pennsylvania, where UNGD is prevalent, and western Maryland, where no UNGD has occurred due to a statewide moratorium. The streams were located in adjacent counties and had similar climate, geology and land use other than UNGD. Pennsylvania streams had significantly higher specific conductance and concentrations of As, Ca, K, Mg, and Sr, suggesting that UNGD in the watersheds may be a source of these constituents. However, no significant correlations between watershed UNGD well density and water quality was observed, suggesting that other activities, such as UNGD waste transport and disposal, may affect water quality more than extraction wells do. Future work will focus on the effects of other UNGD-related activities, identifying pathways by which UNGD-related pollution enters streams, and gathering a more comprehensive data set.
Karen Knee (Primary Presenter/Author), American University, firstname.lastname@example.org;