Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Principal Investigator:
Jennifer Baka
Assistant Professor
The Pennsylvania State University
Principal Investigator:
Susan Brantley
Professor
The Pennsylvania State University
Principal Investigator:
Lingzhou Xue
Associate Professor
The Pennsylvania State University
Principal Investigator:
Tao Wen
Assistant Professor
Syracuse University

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

Baka Study Location

Baka Study Location

 

Video
Jennifer Baka
Jennifer Baka

Research Team

Jennifer Baka
Assistant Professor
The Pennsylvania State University
Susan Brantley
Professor
The Pennsylvania State University
Lingzhou Xue
Associate Professor
The Pennsylvania State University
Tao Wen
Assistant Professor
Syracuse University

Project Updates

Baka Quarterly Update - December 2023

Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Jennifer Baka

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

What's Happened

  • The research team completed final community focus groups and model work and submitted its draft Investigator Report to HEI Energy for evaluation by HEI’s Energy Review Committee.
  • The team has submitted manuscripts for publication to top geoscience and geography journals.
  • Dr. Baka and Dr. Brantley spoke at the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania’s 2023 “Shale & Public Health conference,” November 14, 2023 (https://www.shalepalwv.org/2023-shale-public-health-conference/).
  • Dr. Brantley gave the Michael T. Halbouty Distinguished Lecture at the Geological Society of America Annual Conference, October 17-18, 2023. Dr. Baka and Dr. Shaheen also presented at this conference:
    • Baka: “Something in The Water? Analyzing Community and Geoscientific Knowledge of the Energy-Water-Health Nexus in Southwestern Pennsylvania”
    • Shaheen: “Wastewater Spills During Shale Gas Development as a Driver of Increased Groundwater Salinity”
       

 

What's New

  • Research is complete and under review by HEI’s Energy Review Committee.
  • Dr. Baka and Dr. Brantley will present their research as part of HEI Energy’s “Energy & Health” webinar series on December 18, 2023.

What's Next

  • The team’s draft Investigator Report will undergo review by HEI’s Energy Review Committee before being finalized and posted to HEI Energy’s website along with the Committee’s Commentary on the study. The Commentary describes the strengths and limitations of the research and describes it in the context of the broader scientific literature.
Baka Quarterly Update - September 2023

Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Jennifer Baka

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

What's Happened

  • The team held follow up focus groups in Beaver, Washington, and Greene Counties between July 31 and August 2 to discuss preliminary study results with community members. Attendees were very grateful and appreciative of the work. 
  • Sam Shaheen, Drs. Tao Wen, and Susan Brantley organized a session and associated fieldtrip for the 2023 Geological Society of America (GSA) conference, October 15-19, Pittsburgh, PA.
  • Shaheen finalized a second geoscientific analysis paper for submission to the journal, Environmental Research Letters in September 2023. 
     

What's New

  • Analyzing the location of the hotspots identified in Shaheen et al. (2022) in terms of population, geology, industrial activities, and groundwater chemistry.
  • Continuing exposure analysis.

What's Next

  • Present findings to the HEI Research Committee, September 2023. 
  • Finalize project and submit final investigator report in the Fall of 2023.
  • Submit focus group analysis paper for publication.

Upcoming Events:

  • Dr. Sue Brantley will give an invited Halbouty Lecture at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh PA, Oct 17, 12:15-1:15p.m., entitled “How Fracking Affects our Water.” 
  • Sam Shaheen, Drs. Tao Wen, and Susan Brantley to host the following GSA sessions (Date and Time TBD)
    • No Well Left Behind: Quantifying Impacts and Improving Management of Active, Abandoned, and Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells to Safeguard Air, Water, and Land Resources
    • Fieldtrip: Fracking in the Oldest Commercial Oil Field: From Legacy Extraction to Environmental Impacts
Baka Quarterly Update - June 2023

Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Jennifer Baka

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

What's Happened

What's New

  • Continuing to analyze potential community exposures.
  • Completing analyses using violation citations from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to understand the possible effects of specific oil and gas development processes on groundwater quality.

What's Next

  • Prepare for additional focus groups in summer 2023 to communicate preliminary results.
  • Prepare manuscripts for publication.
  • Finalize project and submit final Investigator Report to HEI Energy in Fall 2023. 
     

Upcoming Events:

baka-shale-conference.jpg
Figure: Dr. Jenn Baka and members of her team with Secretary Negrin of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who was a keynote speaker at the Shale Network Conference in Pennsylvania earlier this year.
Baka Quarterly Update - March 2023

Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Jennifer Baka

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

What's Happened

What's New

  • Investigating correlations between chemicals detected in groundwater and compliance violations (such as well structural impairments) reported by the regulator. 
  • Continuing to evaluate potential water contamination “signatures,” or patterns, from various forms of energy development. 
     

What's Next

  • Host follow up focus groups with communities in the spring of 2023. 
  • Finalize manuscripts summarizing the evaluation of potential water contamination “signatures” and community engagement work. 
  • Begin analysis of human exposures from groundwater contamination.

Upcoming Events:

Shale Network Workshop Registration Image
Baka Quarterly Update - December 2022

Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Jennifer Baka

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

What's Happened

  • Continued to analyze water quality data for chemical patterns that indicate potential contamination from various forms of energy development.
  • Continued to analyze information shared by community members during focus groups earlier this year.
  • Dr. Shaheen presented research at the November 2022 meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Pittsburgh, PA.

What's New

  • Completing analysis of water quality data.
  • Preparing for additional community focus groups in spring 2023.
  • Planning for the 2023 Shale Network Workshop with a panel related to this study.

What's Next

  • Host additional focus groups with communities in spring 2023.
  • Write summaries of our analysis of water quality data and findings from community focus groups.
  • Begin to assess community exposure to chemicals in water.

Upcoming Events:

Baka Quarterly Update - September 2022

Using Geoscientific Analysis and Community Engagement to Analyze Exposures to Potential Groundwater Contamination

Jennifer Baka

The overall goal of this study is to evaluate potential linkages between unconventional oil and gas development (UOGD) and groundwater contamination in a tri-county region of Pennsylvania with many overlapping potential sources of contamination. The analysis will be informed by focus groups in the region to help identify areas of community concern. The team plans to produce a broadly applicable framework to study the relationship between specific UOGD processes and potential groundwater contamination. The investigators will apply the following methods to achieve their goals:

  1. Combine an existing data set of chemical measurements in groundwater with machine learning to isolate the influences of natural and anthropogenic processes on groundwater chemistry and to identify chemical signatures of UOGD.
  2. Evaluate linkages between UOGD and potential water contamination.
  3. Develop an approach to map locations of potential contamination from UOGD activities for application to future investigations of potential human exposures and health effects associated with UOGD.

What's Happened

What's New

  • Analyzing data from focus groups of community members obtained in the summer of 2022 to learn about their concerns.
  • Continuing analysis of the water quality dataset.
  • Beginning synthesis of focus group data and water quality data.
  • Continuing to investigate mathematical tools that could isolate the impacts on water quality from UOGD and other types of energy development.

What's Next

  • Complete preliminary analysis of water quality data.
  • Host follow-up community focus groups to review the analysis of water quality data.
  • Use community feedback from the May 2022 Shale Network Workshop to prepare for the 2023 workshop.

Upcoming Events:

May 2023
Penn State Shale Network Workshop, Registration link coming soon