A new report by the U.S. Geological Survey finds that coal-bed natural gas production can affect water quality in nearby streams.
The study monitored water quality over a ten-year period in Wyoming and Montana, and found that in places like the Powder River, sodium levels increased. Other test sites showed little or no change in water quality.
Report author Melanie Clark says the changes occur because water that’s extracted during gas production sometimes flows into the streams and rivers.
But she says the additional sodium in the water isn’t particularly worrisome.
“There’s a lot of sodium in those drainages to begin with, because of how arid some of those drainages are,” Clark said. “So these aren’t types of constituents that have exceeded water quality standards for example.”
Clark says the USGS will continue monitoring water quality as long as gas production continues.