News Feature | January 2, 2014

Government Study Finds High Methane Levels In New York Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A government study recently concluded that parts of New York may have to boost their efforts to monitor methane seeping into the environment. 

The study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that water in some areas of upstate New York contains high levels of methane. 

"Results of sampling indicate that occurrence of methane in groundwater in the region is common (greater than or equal to 0.1 mg/L in 35 percent of samples) but is associated with specific hydrogeologic settings. Wells completed in bedrock within valleys and with confined groundwater conditions were most closely associated with methane occurrence," the study said. 

The study was timed to collect data to illuminate the potential dangers of fracking. Fracking sites may pose the risk of leaking methane into the environment. 

"USGS hydrologist and lead author Paul Heisig says it was important to establish an understanding of naturally occurring methane concentrations while New York’s moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is still in place," NPR reported

But the study did not reach any conclusions about fracking.

"Heisig said his team didn't specifically try to link the gas in water wells to the Marcellus formation, but rather focused on documenting the naturally occurring variations in water wells in the region," the Republic said. 

Greater water monitoring of methane may be needed, the Republic reported

"The U.S. Geological Survey study found that 15 percent of groundwater samples from 66 household wells across south-central New York contained naturally occurring methane at levels high enough to warrant monitoring or remediation, even though none of the water wells was within a mile of existing or abandoned natural gas wells," the news report said. 

Naturally-occuring methane is "an odorless, colorless gas which can be explosive in high concentration," the news report said. 

The results could serve as a wakeup call about local tap water in that area. 

"Heisig said the levels in four of the wells were so high that water coming out of a tap could potentially be lit with a match, or be an explosive risk," the Republic said.

For previous fracking coverage on Water Online, click here.

Image credit: “Gas Chromatography," © 2010 NOAA's National Ocean Service, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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