The Susquehanna River Basin Commission is trying to put together what it calls an “early warning” system designed to identify water pollution caused by natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation.
The Commission is calling for a network of 30 high-tech water monitors throughout north-central Pennsylvania. Executive Director Paul Swartz says the devices, called data sondes, would provide regulators with immediate evidence if pollutants start making their way into creeks and streams. “These are portable monitoring devices that can be put into remote areas and relay data that is accessible not only to us at the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, but information that would be available to other resource agencies and to the public.” The devices each cost $25,000. Swartz says the SRBC would pay for the first four, and rely on funding from municipalities, environmental advocacy groups, the state and other organizations for the rest of the network. The process of drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale, called fracking, involves pumping water under high pressure into the layer of shale to release the gas. That water picks up salts and other pollutants in the process. It is withdrawn from the well and treated before being released into nearby waterways. The process has the potential to release pollutants into ground water and surface water when done incorrectly.