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The False Positive Problem and The Prevalence of Methane and Solutes in Shallow Ground Water Consumed in Pennsylvania West Virginia, and Ohio


We report the results of a geochemical synthesis of ∼20,000 samples of shallow ground water from northeastern and western parts of the Appalachian Basin collected prior to drilling for Marcellus Shale gas. We also report the results of detailed temporal studies on the variability of methane and other parameters in ground water 11 water wells in different hydrogeologic settings in northeastern Pennsylvania. The spatial and temporal variability in concentrations of constituents of regulatory interest related to shale gas production (e.g. Na, CH4, Fe, Mn, Sr, and Ba) span factors to an order of magnitude, and commonly exceed regulatory MCLs because of natural geochemical evolution. Increasing solute and gas concentrations in domestic well water after gas well drilling cannot be considered as compelling evidence for contamination by shale gas development in the absence of additional independent diagnostic isotopic and other forensic geochemical tools.