Water Monitoring Report Finds No Discernible Impacts from Natural Gas Development

Natural gas development has had no discernable impact on water quality in the Susquehanna River Basin, according to a recent continuous water monitoring report. These findings are significant—the Basin is a key drinking water resource just west of the Delaware River and home to thousands of unconventional natural gas wells that are safely producing American energy.  

In its Technical Summary, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission’s Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network reaffirms previous reports that found no adverse effect on waterway conditions as a result of shale development. SRBC has collected such data since 2010 – today 55 water quality monitoring stations are installed in small streams that could potentially be impacted by natural gas activity.

Responding to the recent report, MSC’s David Spigelmyer said in a statement:

“As the Delaware River Basin Commission weighs a ban on safe natural gas development, regulators should look to the success in the neighboring Susquehanna River Basin and the continuous water monitoring which shows no change to quality or quantity, as further evidence that natural gas development and strong protection for our environment are not mutually exclusive. Our industry works tirelessly to leverage improving technologies, world-class engineering solutions and best practices aimed at safeguarding and enhancing our environment, including groundwater protection, as well as public health. Working together with regulators, and other stakeholders, we continue to make important and collaborative environmental as well as economic progress.”

With an environmental compliance rate of nearly 98.3 percent, operating under some of the most stringent and rigorous environmental standards in the nation, Pennsylvania’s unconventional shale gas industry has a demonstrated track record of operating in a manner that protects our shared environment.

Key results from the study include:

  • Specific Conductivity: “Overall, the 16 stations exhibit low specific conductivity; only three stations had concentrations greater than 100” – according to the report, the three outliers are likely the result of other causes: one is downstream of a reservoir, one is downstream of Wellsboro, which has numerous permitted dischargers, and the last was likely impacted from road salt from Interstate Route 80
  • Turbidity: “Generally, turbidity concentrations are low across the sites and all but two sites have averages of less than 10 NTU Marsh Creek is a slow, meandering stream impacted by agriculture and urban influences. These characteristics mean that Marsh Creek takes longer to flush sediment and runoff related to a storm event. Pine Creek is a large stream, which tend to have higher turbidity values as it drains a larger area.”
  • Stream Temperature: “The majority of the PADCNR-RWQMN stations of interest are in highly forested watersheds with ample canopy cover. Average stream temperatures were cool (Table 2) and were not significantly different from each other.”
  • Stream Chemistry: “Of the 20 parameters currently being sampled, only three failed to meet water quality standards or levels of concern, on average.” The Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network attributed the three outliers to local circumstances.
  • Aquatic Life: “Of the 16 RWQMN stations of interest to PADCNR, most are in largely forested watersheds and support excellent biological communities. A majority of sites are located on stream segments that are designated by PADEP as Exceptional Value (EV) or High Quality (HQ).”

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