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New York News

Geologists Link Fracking, Aquifers, Earthquakes

By Dave Lucas

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-1001269.mp3

Albany, NY – Just prior to Monday's huge anti-fracking rally at the Legislative Office Building in Albany, a smaller, quieter press conference was held where concerns were expressed that fracking, aquifers and earthquakes are connected... Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Schoharie Valley Watch and Sustainable Otsego are raising awareness about the environmental effects of fracking. Paul Rubin is a geologist with the environmental consulting firm HydroQuest. Rubin estimates the life of an aquifer to be about 1 million years, while he pegs the estimated life of a gas well between 4 to 20 years that and of an abandoned gas well filled with cement and steel between 80 to 100 years. He adds that even the smallest of cracks could allow natural gas to seep into aquifers and potentially trigger earthquakes.

Rubin says that over time, drillers will come and go - and when they have exhausted the well, the sealant materials may not be able to adequately protect aquifers. Rubin suggests that all fracking fluids be tagged with some type of tracer so that if something should happen, the driller could be identified.

Retired Geologist Art Palmer directed a water resources program at Suny Oneonta - his main concern is what's going to happen to the contaminated fluids. Palmer fears contaminants could make their way up to nearby aquifers and then trickle down into major river valleys.

Scientists believe injecting fracking water will likely increase the chance of seismic activity. Art Palmer says the news that fracking could trigger earthquakes is not all bad. The fracking-induced shakers could relieve build-ups of pressure that might otherwise lead to larger earthquakes in the future. The geologists note that New York State has more faults than previously expected, many are seismically active and most are in close proximity to waste disposal sites, pipelines and bridges.

At a public hearing last fall, an official with the NYC Department of Environmental Protection discussed seismic risk to tunnels. Deputy Commissioner Paul Rush said the metro area has more geofaults than the state DEC is aware of and that water tunnels could be at risk. The DEC did not have a representative immediately available for comment.