ARLINGTON - A University of Texas at
Arlington chemistry professor will assist in a new study to examine rural well
water from areas near natural gas drilling sites to provide clear, accurate
information about the potential impact of chemicals used to extract gas from
Kevin Schug, assistant professor
of chemistry in the College of Science, will
work with independent researchers with support from Assure Controls, a product
development and marketing company in San Diego, Calif. The research team aims to test for
contamination in water well samples from more than 100 locations.
“This is an important study for us to undertake because North Texas is
so heavily invested in natural gas production,” Schug said. “We want to
help figure out if there are valid environmental and health concerns associated
with these operations, especially in more rural areas where well water quality
is not specifically regulated by EPA.”
is a process by which a blend of water, sand and other agents is pumped into a
well at high pressure, cracking rock formations up to a mile underground and
releasing natural gas. It has been used widely in North Texas’ Barnett Shale
and other natural gas formations across the country, allowing access to
previously untapped reserves.
In reaction to concerns
about the process, the U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu earlier this month
formed a panel of experts to make recommendations regarding the safety and
environmental performance of natural gas hydraulic fracturing from shale
Schug and others involved
in the study will use Assure’s QwikLite Biosensor System, a sensitive, rapid
and affordable water quality test for toxicity caused by any
type of organic, inorganic and heavy metal compound. They will do further
testing to determine what contaminants, if any, are in the samples.
Geospatial and statistical
analysis will be used to examine correlations between hydraulic fracturing and
the composition of the well water, said Laura Hunt, a member of the research team
who previously conducted her post-doctoral research at UT Arlington.
involved are Brian Fontenot and Zacariah Hildenbrand. Fontenot finished his doctorate
in quantitative biology at UT Arlington in 2009. Hildenbrand recently earned
his doctorate in biochemistry from The University of Texas at El Paso.
Assure Controls is
supporting the study out of an interest in the quality of well water, company officials
said. While the Environmental Protection
Agency regulates public water systems, it does not regulate private drinking
water wells, which account for approximately 15 percent of U.S. drinking water
supplies. Unlike public drinking water systems, experts do not regularly
monitor water source and quality for private wells, the company said.
In addition to faculty members who
are working to measure water quality, UT Arlington is involved in making
information about air quality near natural gas well sites available to the
The Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality has contracted with UT Arlington for the purchase, installation and
operation of air quality monitors in Arlington and surrounding areas. The
program will provide valuable data to address environmental impact issues,
including those related to natural gas drilling.
For the past four years, UT Arlington has partnered with Carrizo Oil
& Gas Inc. of Houston in the exploration and production of University
natural gas resources. The program has generated revenue to help support undergraduate
scholarships and graduate fellowships, faculty and staff recruitment and
retention. Royalties also provide matching funds to attract private University support
through the Maverick Match endowment program. For details, visit http://www.uta.edu/giving/maverick-match.pdf.
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research and
teaching institution of nearly 34,000 students in the heart of North Texas.
to learn more.
For more information about submitting a
water sample, please email the research team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available at https://sites.google.com/site/txwellwaterstudy/home.
The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.