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Marcellus Shale Drilling Poses Danger to Groundwater, Nackenoff Says

Marcellus Shale Drilling Poses Threat to
Groundwater, Says Political Scientist Carol Nackenoff

by Alisa Giardinelli

Carol Nackenoff
Richter Professor of Political Science Carol Nackenoff

The Marcellus Shale, estimated to contain over 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, lies under about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and stretches out towards West Virginia, Ohio, and New York state.  More than 500 wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania this year alone, with another 500+ permits to drill more wells already issued. But the techniques used to get the natural gas - hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling - have potentially adverse effects on the environment, human health, and communities, says Carol Nackenoff, chair of Swarthmore's Environmental Studies Program.

Last semester, Nackenoff taught the program's senior capstone seminar, Environmental Justice and Water, which focused on the issues surrounding the drilling of the Marcellus Shale. In a recent interview, she notes that the water used in the wells often contains as many as 345 different chemicals and that if the well is not properly installed, it could easily contaminate ground water.

"Most regions don't have the facilities needed to treat these chemicals," Nackenoff says. "And if they sit in the ponds, and there are heavy rains or flooding, they often overflow and go into the groundwater supplies, rivers, and streams."

Nackenoff is the Richter Professor of Political Science. Her courses include constitutional law, environmental politics, and political theory.