Environmental consultant disputes government’s fracking comments on contaminated drinking water by Jeremy Lye, February 4, 2014, 630 CHED
In its response to the NDP’s revelations yesterday that it granted over 1500 fracking licenses in 2013, the Redford government described claims the controversial method of drawing oil and gas has contaminated drinking water in Alberta as “completely false”.
But Jessica Ernst, an environmental consultant in the oil and gas industry, says it’s the government’s message that’s dishonest. Ernst says her own research shows evidence of fracking by energy company Encana that contaminated drinking water aquifers in the hamlet of Rosebud as far back as 2004, and since then government and industry has been changing its story.
“They used to say it’s never contaminated ground water anywhere in the world, then they limited it to North America,” Ernst says.
“Now they’re not just saying ground water; now they’re saying domestic water wells and it’s not true,” she says.
Ernst says the most alarming figure from the government is that the “oil and gas sector accounts for approximately 10 per cent of water usage in Alberta.”
“It used to be one per cent, that to me is more scary than the wells that were licensed last year because to go from one per cent to ten, that shows the massive increase in water being used, and what Albertans need to remember is 25 to 100 per cent of that water never returns.”
On Tuesday NDP leader Brian Mason revealed documents he said shows fracking is almost completely unregulated in Alberta and called for an independent review of the practice done.
[Refer also to:
In 2004, Encana fractured directly into the drinking water aquifers at Rosebud:
“The top perforation was stimulated with 3,000 m3 [3,000,000 litres] of nitrogen (at standard temperature and pressure) at a rate of 500 m3/min [500,000 litres/min] for six minutes. The top set of perforations in this CBM well (125.5 to 126.4 mKb) was in the Weaver coal zone, the same as many of the local water wells….” [Endnote #155: the Alberta government commissioned report by the Alberta Research Council (name changed to Alberta Innovates Technologies Futures)]
There were six perforations into the fresh water aquifer and 18 more below them. Water wells in the community started to go bad and EnCana retained Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd. (HCL) to investigate. HCL is the same company that did the regional groundwater assessments for 45 Alberta counties and municipal districts, including Wheatland County in 2003 (Refer also to Page 23). Testing of the gas from the aquifer in 2004 showed high concentrations of methane and nitrogen. Nitrogen was as high as 30% in the gas in the first water well that went bad. [Endnote 156]
Regulator tests in 2007 on the Ernst well showed 881,000 ppmv methane, 26.70 ppmv ethane and 137,000 ppmv nitrogen in free gas collected, and 24.3 mg/l methane, 0.021 mg/l ethane and 12.3 mg/l nitrogen dissolved in the water. Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines are 10 mg/l total nitrogen. [Endnote # 159]