Hundreds of Water Tests Performed For Drilling in Texas
“In Texas, I don’t think there’s anybody else doing quite what we’re doing,” says research scientist Kevin Schug.
What Schug is doing can be found in a two big kitchen refrigerators in a lab on the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington. The fridges are crammed with hundreds of plastic bottles containing samples from private water wells located mostly in North Texas, but some of them in West Texas, too.
The project hopes to determine if drilling for oil and gas and burying chemical waste generated by the work is contaminating groundwater. The project is not sponsored by Texas environmental regulators nor the oil and gas industry but rather by UT Arlington. UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology is also involved.
“At the university here, we can stand in a neutral case and look at this very objectively using analytical techniques that can say whether there is or is not an impact,” Schug told StateImpact Texas.
Results from an expected total of 550 well water samples won’t be made public until this fall, but Schug hints at one set of results from a ranch in Nolan County, just west of Abilene. Unlike many of the wells tested where drilling had already taken place nearby, researchers were able to take water samples in Nolan County before and after oil drilling took place. (Water samples taken before drilling begins are also known as ‘baseline testing.’)
“About all I can say right now [is] we do see some changes in parameters over time, but I’m really not at liberty to speak about that until the paper goes out for peer review,” Schug said