Marcellus Shale

New Database Will Track Water Quality in Marcellus Shale Drilling Areas

A new database will help track water quality in areas affected by Marcellus Shale drilling.  Development of the database is being led by Penn State researchers.  It’s funded with a 750 thousand dollar grant from the National Science Foundation

Penn State Geo sciences professor Susan Brantley says the web site is already being set up and they’ve started collecting data. The Director of Penn State’s Earth and Environmental Systems Institute and principal investigator says it should be on line by early this winter. 

The database will collect information from government agencies, researchers and citizens groups that are sampling water quality. Brantley says they want to make data available to everyone, so people can share it, look at other people’s data, compare it and think about it.  She says they hope to study it a scientists and work with citizens to help them learn how to look at water quality data and understand what it means.

Brantley says with the Marcellus Shale industry developing as fast as it is, citizens want to be able to look at their water chemistry and water quality and make sure any impacts are kept to a minimum.  She says some environmental impacts happen with almost any industry.

Brantley believes the database will be valuable to citizens and the drilling industry. She says there’s no reason why the gas companies want to have problems in Pennsylvania.     

In addition to Penn State, Pitt, Bucknell and Dickinson College are collaborating.  Dickinson scientists have been training citizens in water sample collection.

Brantley says she’s excited that she’ll be working with some of the citizen scientist groups.  She will help them put their information into a larger database and determine what it means. She says they’ll be looking at all of the data together to try to understand what impact there is, if there is impact from the shale drilling.

Bill Would Regulate Non-farm Fertilizer to Improve Water Quality

A state senator who also chairs the Chesapeake Bay Commission has introduced a bill to set limits on non-farm fertilizers in Pennsylvania.    Senator Mike Brubaker’s (R-Lanc) bill would require all professional fertilizer applicators to be certified, setting limits on applications to lawns, golf courses and athletic fields.

Brubaker says the science is perfectly clear, that when you apply the appropriate amount of fertilizer to commercial lawns and residential lawns, then water quality is improved. The goal is to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous in the water and ultimately the Bay.  He says similar legislation has already been enacted in Maryland and New Jersey.

He says people’s fertilization habits don’t need to change if a soil test shows the turf needs nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. He says SB 1191 is aimed at getting the correct amount applied.

Senator Brubaker says they have been working with the professional lawn care industry in drafting the bill and they’re getting input from golf courses as well.

He says Pennsylvania and other states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed are under a federal court mandate to reduce the levels of pollution getting into the bay. He believes regulatory changes need to occur in some cases in order to allow the state to meet those limits.

Brubaker says they have to address how turf grass is fertilized, because the number one land use in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is turf grass, including cemeteries, residential lawns, commercial lawns, golf courses and football fields.

The bill would not apply to farmers, who have been under nutrient management law for decades. It would also not apply to homeowners who are using fertilizer on their lawns.  Senator Brubaker says they will attempt to deal with those residential applications through education.