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Essay about Lab Report: Hydraulic Fracturing

Introduction: Hydraulic fracturing is the process in which a mixture of chemicals and water are used in combination to stimulate wells and expose minerals that previously would have been much too expensive to access using tradition methods. With the process comes some detrimental environmental consequences, like water contamination, due to the chemicals used in the liquid mixture. According to an Earthworks article, only 0. to 2. 0% of the “frack fluid” volume content is made up of chemicals, which sounds like a relatively small amount, but in 2010, it was estimated that nearly “70 to 140 billion gallons of water [were] sed to fracture 35,000 wells in the United States” (www. earthworksaction. org). That is nearly 2. 8 billion gallons of chemicals that are being released into natural lakes and rivers each year.

When those chemicals come in contact in with natural water, they not only contaminate the Earth’s water natural water reserve, but it has the potential to seep into the ground resulting in the contamination of underground sources of drinking water due to spills and faulty well construction. In Pennsylvania, Colorado, Ohio, and Wyoming, there has been a direct connection between hydraulic fracturing and the ontamination of citizens drinking. In fact, a Duke study examining sites in New York found “systematic evidence for methane contamination” (Duke University) in a numerous homes drinking water.

Hydraulic fracturing has effects on not only the environment but in citizens everyday life. It is because of this that Central Michigan University has asked its Chemistry 131 students to test local water samples to determine the current quality of the water and to find if the water has the potential to be contaminated. This data can be used if any fracturing is done upstream of the Pine River or the Chippewa River, potentially conserving the water supply of hundreds of citizens in the city of Mt. Pleasant and Alma, Michigan.

Test Overview/Results Conductivity Test: Conductivity measures the flow of current through a substance, in this case the Chippewa River water sample. High conductivity readings can be caused by high levels of sodium chloride coming in contact with water solution. When dissolved, the sodium chloride generates Na* and Cl- ions, which carry an electric charge. The conductivity of water is a very important test when trying to determine the quality of the water in relation the ffects of hydraulic fracturing. One of chemicals that is used to create the fracking fluid that is used during hydraulic fracturing is sodium chloride.

This test could show if the local water samples have been contaminated by an access of fracking fluid seeping into the Chippewa River during fracturing. The conductivity recorded from the conductivity probe yielded the results of 386 us/cm, 385 µs/cm, and 385 µs/cm, giving an average of 385. 33 µs/cm. These results are very reliable, given that the three trials had a difference of just 1 µs/cm. On average, the conductivity of surface/groundwater falls within 50-500 µs/cm, so the results yielded from this test show that the water is at a healthy level.

This number stands as a base to compare to future water samples to determine if any contamination has occurred. One limitation to this experiment could be how the samples were obtained. If the water was roughed up during the capturing process, more dirt and other particles could be in the water, yielding inaccurate results. Another limitation would be the living organisms, trash, etc. , that exist in the river. Each of these “contaminants” have their own electric currents that could in turn affect how strong the onductivity is. pH Test: pH of the water is a number that is used to express the acidity of a water sample.

In natural water, the pH can vary greatly based on the contents of the water. The pH test is important in relation to the the effects of hydraulic fracturing due to the chemical contents of the fracturing fluid. When these chemicals are mixed with any water solution, they cause the pH to increase greatly due the acidity of the chemicals. This can have a disastrous impact on the organic matter living the in the natural water reservoirs. During the lab, a basic paper test was done on he water sample, although not as accurate as the meter, the paper will still yield a good value for the pH of the Chippewa River sample.

The pH recorded from the paper produced the results of 6. 8 pH, 6. 8 pH, and 6. 8 pH, giving an average of 6. 8 pH. The tests provided very accurate ratings, givings the same value all three times. The pH of natural waters, that contain gases, minerals, and chemicals, range between 5 to 9 pH. So the recorded value falls in between the two boundaries, showing that the pH levels of the Chippewa River demonstrate those of a healthy natural water source. This number can be used in comparison with any future testing to determine if the acidity of the water has changed significantly.

A limitation for this test could be the weather before the samples were obtained, if it rained recently, the pH values would be higher as the water would be more mixed up and agitated. A second limitation is the testing method. pH strips were used, but these are not as accurate as a digital device Alkalinity Test: Alkalinity is measurement that demonstrate the capability a solution has to neutralize acid. So a water with a high alkalinity as more of a chance to fight acidic solutions that seap into the water rather than a water source with a lower alkalinity.

The alkalinity test has an importance when it is related to hydraulic fracturing because it demonstrates if the water solution will be able to fight off the harmful chemicals involved with hydraulic fracturing. The alkalinity test was done using a titration method that involved combining a Bromocresol Green-Methyl Red Indicator Powder Pillow and sulfuric acid with the water sample. When the water sample turned to a red hue, the titration was omplete and the alkalinity of the sample could be recorded.

This test yielded results of 188. 1 mg/L CaCO, 205. 2 mg/L CaCO, and 188. mg/L CaCO, with an average of 193. 8. These results proved fairly reliable due to the numbers being only of by less 20 mg/L. When this number is compared to the standard for acceptable alkalinity, 20-250 mg/L CACO, the Chippewa River proves to be reliable at fighting off the introduction of acidic solution. This number does not mean that the water would be proficient at defending itself from the thousands of gallons of acidic water that could enter the water due to hydraulic racturing. A limitation to this test could be due to using mixing bottles that have been used before.

If a previous lab did not clean them properly, the small amount of remaining solution could have mixed with the Chippewa River sample, producing inaccurate results. A second possible limitation is the weather, similar to the pH,the rainwater could act upon the alkalinity of the water. Barium Test: In nature, barium exists in two different forms, Barium Sulfate and Barium Carbonate. During fracturing, these two ores can be dissolved, allowing for the ions to flow downstream into the ivers and lakes, resulting in exceedingly high barium levels in the water.

This can cause high amounts of contamination in not only the lakes but drinking water reservoirs. Three separate trials were conducted using the colorimeter and a BariVer Barium Reagent Powder Pillow mixed with the water sample. The tests produced results of 2 mg/L, 1 mg/L, and 1 mg/L. It was decided that another test must be done to get the most precise results as possible, giving 1 mg/L. With three recordings all being the same, the 2 mg/L was discarded as an inaccurate reading, resulting in a precise average of 1 mg/L.

The EPA has set a standard maximum contaminant level of 2 mg/L for tap water. So when compared, this water is fairly barium free at the moment, but that could drastically change if hydraulic fracturing occurs upstream. The numbers recorded from this set now stand as a base for further investigations. One limitation for this experiment is due to the overuse of the testing glassware, if the glass was dirty, the readings could be slightly off. Another source of error could be related to the powder pillows, as some of them held much more reagent powder than others.

Sulfate Test: Sulfate is a very acidic compound that is naturally found in waters, but an excess of the compound could create many different health concerns for a water system. Many of the fracking fluids use many different versions of sulfate ions as breakers, which are used to create the fracture during the hydraulic fracturing process. When fracturing occurs, these compounds could seep into rivers and lakes causing a variety of problems. During the testing process, a colorimeter was used with a mixture of the water sample and a SulfaVer4 Sulfate Reagent Powder Pillow.

The test yielded results of 35 mg/L SO4, 1 mg/L SO4, and 21 mg/L SO4. It was decided that these results were not precise enough to record, so another test was performed with the result of 30 mg/L SO4. The test now had two values within one mg/L of each, but the variety of the results were still too large to be confident, so a final test was conducted with the results of 31 mg/L SO4, giving an average of 30. 67 mg/L SO4 after the two extremes were thrown out. This test does not seem as reliable as the others during the experiment due to the ranges of results that were recorded during the testing process.

Nonetheless, when these results are compared to the EPA’s secondary maximum contaminant of 250 mg/L S04, the sulfate levels of the water sample seems to be relatively in check. One limitation could be the existence of sulfate runoff from various garbage or any other objects that have ended up in the river, causing an inaccurate result of sulfate within the river water. Another limitation could be the rivers exist in a farming error, where pesticides could have runoff. Many pesticides have sulfate in the chemicals, so this would end up affecting what the amount of sulfate is.

Chloride Test: Chloride is used in water to help regulate the amount of fluid in the the body and keep the pH of a water solution in balance. In nature, chloride is found in water due to the rocks in the water containing amounts of chloride. In small amounts, chloride is extremely healthy for water to have to maintain its healthy conditions, but in large amounts can can health complications for the water systems. During the fracturing process, a variety of chloride solutions are used in the fracturing fluid, like Potassium chloride and Sodium chloride.

These could significantly increase the chloride levels of the water system and cause a variety of complications. To test for chloride, titration was used in combination with a Chloride 2 Indicator Powder Pillow and Silver Nitrate to produce a orange color. The tests provided results of 60 mg/L Cl-, 60 mg/L Cl-, and 40 mg/L Cl-. The two samples that yielded 60 mg/L were decided to be too dark to be acceptable trials. After the trials four and five were completed, the results were 40 mg/L Cl-, 40 mg/L Cl-, and 40 mg/L Cl-, with an average of 40 mg/L Cl-.

These results are mostly accurate as the cause of the two outliers were due to human error. When compared to the EPA recommended concentration of Chloride in water, 250 mg/l Cl-, the water samples show that the Chippewa River has healthy chloride levels for a natural river. One limitation is that the river contains rocks that have a small amount chloride in them, so if the water was obtained near a chloride filled rock, the amount of chloride would be inaccurate. Another limitation could be that rainwater, if it had rained recently, the water could affect the amount of chloride depending on how soon it has been since the last rain.

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