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Can you provide any advice on well-water testing and what to test for, especially the radioactive


Published: Fri, November 1, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Can you provide any advice on well-water testing and what to test for, especially the radioactive elements?

Well-water samples should always be collected before any oil and gas drilling. But if samples are obtained after, the same general rules typically apply.

Most importantly, water samples must be collected and analyzed by using proper sampling and laboratory procedures. Water sampling should be conducted only by a professional who understands the proper protocols.

A list of Ohio Environmental Protection Agency-certified laboratories for drinking-water analysis is available at www.epa.ohio.gov/portals/28/documents/labcert/chemlabs.pdf.

Before a professional is contacted, information on the well should first be obtained, such as when and how it was constructed.

Research about sampling costs and laboratories in your area should be conducted as well.

Modern oil and gas drilling is a closely monitored and regulated process. As Jeffrey Dick, a geology professor at Youngstown State University, wrote in July for his Shale Sheet column, compared to other sedimentary rocks, shales generally contain a higher concentration of radioactive metals, such as uranium, thorium and potassium.

During drilling, these naturally occurring radioactive materials are dredged up in flowback water, drilling muds and rock cuttings, which are all properly disposed of after drilling is complete. They pose little threat to drinking water.

Operators do employ special fluids for the fracking process. These fluids do not contain any radioactive elements.

In some instances, such solutions can contain volatile organic compounds with carcinogenic properties such as benzene and toulene, but operators have started to shift away from these components in their drilling fluids.

Water sampling should be collected before any treatment devices, such as water softeners or disinfection units.

The sample often will be taken from a spigot or drain near the pressure tank, and it must represent water from the well, which means running the water for at least five to 10 minutes.

A record will be taken of this process.

Chloride and sodium are common chemical components in oil and gas brine water, or wastewater. These components in brine are elevated compared with shallow ground waters.

Another indicator of oil and gas drilling is the presence of dissolved methane gas in the water.

Tests also are conducted for barium, potassium, sulfate, bromide, benzene and toulene, among other things.

The process is complicated with a high margin for sampling error and misinterpretation. Experts strongly recommend contacting the right laboratory to conduct well-water testing.

Questions about shale development or the fracking

process can be sent to news@shalesheet.com.


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