One of the authors of a recent study from Duke University says, if nothing else, it shows the importance of groundwater tests before the start of any natural gas drilling.

"It helps everybody," said Professor Robert Jackson, Director of Duke University’s Center on Global Change.

"It keeps companies from paying for bad water that they didn’t cause, protects homeowners if the quality of their water declines."

The study was a follow up to a similar report issued a year ago.  In it, researchers looked at 426 samples from groundwater aquifers near Marcellus fracking sites in six northeast counties in Pennsylvania.

Professor Jackson says the results of the research show no evidence of brine contamination from drilling in the Marcellus shale.  However, there were a small number of places which appeared to be more vulnerable to contamination.

"Some homeowners have water that looks like the water found naturally, deep underground in the Marcellus and other formations."  Jackson, though, says that migration could be natural or the result of drilling.

He says more follow up is needed.

"We have always said that our goal in doing this research is to understand that the cases where problems occur, why did they occur and how do we solve them?"  Jackson continued, "It’s about making this safer, not about trying to shut an industry down."

The study was published earlier this month in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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