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Well Testing Information for NC Counties Most Likely to be Affected By Fracking

By Eleanor Kern, CWFNC Duke Stanback Intern 2014

The passage of Senate Bill 786, the “Energy Modernization Act”, has landowners in almost 30 counties across NC asking what the next step is in protecting their water and health from being impacted by gas drilling, fracking and treatment. With fracking possibly coming to North Carolina as early as spring of 2015, residents’ first step to protect themselves can be in the form of “baseline” testing of their drinking water wells before any drilling begins. While doing this is not free for the homeowner, it is important to have proof, from certified well water tests, that their drinking water was free of compounds associated with gas development before fracking begins. Clean Water for North Carolina began the summer with a project to help North Carolina residents get good information about affordable and certified testing of their water resources before fracking starts in their region.

When deciding what substances would be most important for residents to test for, many alternatives were researched. Organizations and private laboratories that were found to provide testing services included Shale Test, a TX based non-profit, as well as some for-profit analytical laboratories: Pace Laboratories, Enco Laboratories, and SGS North America. They test for a wide range of chemicals, but were expensive. The cheapest alternative was found to be testing arranged with the residents’ own county health departments, since they offer testing “ inorganic”, “petroleum”, and “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) , which give a good indication if the water has been polluted by hydraulic fracturing or other human practices.

The Environmental Health Departments of most NC counties provide the above three tests for between $100 and $200, but there was a wide range of values. The cheapest county price for the tests was found to be $50 for Northampton County and the most expensive price was for Alexander County with $560, representing a range of administrative costs added by the county. The complete table of well testing info for all NC counties can be viewed here. The completed table was sent to all of the counties’ Environmental Health Directors, hoping that it will shed some light on the differences in programs. A table including only the counties most likely to be directly affected by gas development can be viewed here. Commercial labs where you can purchase dissolved methane in water tests are included here.

Maps of all geological formations in North Carolina that may contain natural gas can be viewed so you can see if your county could be directly affected. We hope that you find this information useful and if you have any questions please e-mail efk11@duke.edu or hope@cwfnc.org.

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