UPDATE: For the best reporting to date on this case see: Better reporting on Range Resources water contamination case in Parker County, it is a long but essential read if you are interested in this case.
Gene Powell and his Barnett Shale Newsletter “get er done” when it comes to providing answers to how Parker County drinking water suddenly became flammable. The Texas Railroad Commission couldn’t get it figured out after four months. It took the EPA two months. But Powell had the answer to the flammable water in Parker County after a quickie five day investigation.
While Powell and the EPA may not agree on where the gas in the drinking water came from, they do agree on one thing:
The thorough EPA investigation matched the isotopic fingerprint of the natural gas in the drinking water to the isotopic fingerprint of the natural gas in nearby Range Resources gas wells. The timeline in the EPA investigation is incriminating because it shows the water wells functioned for years free of natural gas contamination until shortly after the Range Resources gas wells started producing.
Powell decided the gas penetrated into the water zone from the shallow Strawn formation because the “hydrostatic pressure” dropped due to depletion in the aquifer. Powell blames the water depletion on us.
In addition, as this area on the Brazos River, with development ‘canals’ for boats and docks, becomes more urbanized, more homes drill their private water wells dropping the water level in the Paluxy Sand. This reduces the hydrostatic pressure on the low pressure gas in the Strawn Sand underneath and more wells are negatively affected. Any natural gas reservoirs that have been so penetrated will undergo this pressure depletion, and, because of particular sandstone geometric configurations, wells that once delivered only water will begin to produce natural gas as well as this area has demonstrated since 2005.
The Texas Water Development Board predicted that by 2010 33 percent—one in every three gallons—of Parker County water would go to natural gas development. Unlike water used for domestic and agricultural purposes, the water used for hydraulic fracturing is permanently removed from our hydrologic cycle. 33 percent is significant usage especially when that water is not returned to the aquifer.
Powell recommends we test all the water wells and permanently shut in any well that shows signs of natural gas. You can’t have your frack and drink it too.
Each water well in this area should be tested for natural gas and those that show intrusion should be plugged. Continuing to water landscapes with well water containing even very small amounts of natural gas ‘pulls’ it further into the depleting water reservoir adding to eventual natural gas intrusion into other area private water wells, in our opinion.
In Powell’s world water is for hydraulic fracturing and people shouldn’t get in the way of that. The consequences of drawing down the aquifer are ours alone to bear.
That irony burns.