The Impact of a Marcellus Shale Gas-Drilling Accident on Wallace Mine Fen in Moshannon State Forest, PA

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Graham, Andie
In 2009, Marcellus Shale gas-drilling company, EOG Resources, was fined $30,000.00 by the PA DEP after several violations occurred at two well sites located on private land adjacent to Moshannon State Forest in Clearfield County, PA. Of these violations, there were three separate accidents that resulted in the deposition of flowback water and frack fluids into Alex Branch, a small, sandy-bottom stream that flows through Wallace Mine Fen. Contaminated water also infiltrated into the ground, upslope from the fen. Water testing indicated elevated levels of barium, strontium, manganese, chloride, total dissolved solids, and specific conductance. At the time of the accidents, no research was conducted to evaluate the potential impacts. In 2012, we initiated a study to determine the ecological impacts of the accidents on Wallace Mine Fen. We used a nearby wetland, Crystal Spring Bog (actually a fen), as a control and sampled amphibians, birds, vegetation, and macroinvertebrates at both sites. Preliminary results showed no significant differences in vegetation, birds, or macroinvertebrates between the two sites, indicating that the contamination may have occurred in short-term discharge events. There was, however, a significant difference in amphibian species richness between the sites (Z = -2.682, df = 12, p = 0.009), suggesting that accidents resulting from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations may have decreased amphibian species richness at Wallace Mine Fen. Therefore, we have shifted our focus to the amphibian population. This is an on-going study, and we will conduct additional auditory surveys, as well as visual encounter surveys, this spring.
Environmental Science Panel