Fracking contaminated drinking water

Scientific American has an article that explains that a former EPA scientist has found contaminants in drinking water that came from fracking. Drinking water from Pavillion WY smells and tastes bad. There are many natural gas wells in the area, many shallow wells under 2000 feet deep. Chemicals used in fracking have been found in well water.

Many labs analyzing well water originally didn’t find fracking chemicals. But it’s not that simple.

“Conducting a groundwater investigation related to fracking is extremely complicated,” DiGiulio said. “It is difficult because a lot of the compounds used for hydraulic fracturing are not commonly analyzed for in commercial labs.”

More recent test have found methanol, diesel compounds, and other fracking chemicals in wells. Many of these chemicals are unstudied, and we don’t know what the safe levels are for them.

Unsurprisingly, industry groups disagree with the findings. More studies need to be done to find how fracking can be done such that it won’t contaminate well water.

More water than in the oceans in the Earth’s mantle

Where did the oceans come from? One hypothesis is that our ocean water came from comets that collided with the early Earth. Another is that the water came from underground and either seeped to the surface, or came out as water vapor in volcanoes. The second is looking more likely as scientists have found that rocks 700 km below the surface, in the Earth’s mantle, has water bound up in it.

Using seismic waves, scientists have found that ringwoodite has water in it, essentially soggy rock. This is happening around 700 km down, around the transition between the upper and lower mantles.

Why does water get air bubbles?

Have you ever just let a glass of water sit? After a while air bubbles start to form on the inside of the glass. Why?

What is happening is that the cold water is warming up. Cold water (or water at high pressure) can hold more dissolved gas than warm water (or water at low pressure). Your glass of water started out cold. You let it sit, and it warmed up to room temperature. The water now can’t hold as much dissolved gas as it used to. If it had more gas than it can now hold, the gas will come out of solution as air bubbles, which will form on the inside surface of the glass.

This is also what causes “the bends” for divers. Blood plasma is 95% water. Under high pressures blood can hold more dissolved gases. Over time nitrogen (~80% of air) dissolved in the blood. When the diver returns to the surface, the lower pressure causes the nitrogen to come out of solution in the blood, causing the bends.