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Scientists Use Chemical Tracers to Catch Fracking Offenders


oilwell-frackingScientists developed a new method for detecting contamination that has leaked into the groundwater during fracking. The technique uses chemical tracers, which can lead directly to the source of pollution.

Hydraulic fracturing, now already very commonly known as fracking, is a process that continuously loses supporters in the faces of environmentalists and the general public. Regardless of the many attempts governmental officials make in order to convince everyone that fracking is good for them (including making it illegal to speak against it), the evidence of extreme pollution just pile up.

A team of scientists, led by Nathaniel Warner of Dartmouth College, received funding from the National Science Foundation, to develop a method that can put a full stop to the the ridiculous finger-pointing when the question “who polluted the groundwater?” comes up.

In a study published in Environmental Science and  Technology, the team explains that by using boron and lithium, it is possible to find precisely the source of pollution. Because the two elements are not added to the fluids by the operators of the fracking site, the method becomes extremely independent and reliable. What is more, it is possible to detect the elements even at a very small concentrations, after the water has passed through a waste treatment plant.

The authors see huge potential in their technique to help the people directly affected by the pollution. It can also serve as a tool to state agencies that are in charge of monitoring water quality and protect the environment. The method can be easily applied in all areas, where unconventional drilling takes place, and it can identify even single incidents of accidental release of pollutants to surface waters.

Hopefully, now operators will think twice before they commit a crime and do not follow procedures. They will have to realize that they can be caught at any point, with no space to escape from the scene of the crime, or point a finger at someone else.

Image (c) Getty

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