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Drill, baby drill. But at what cost?

December 10, 2009

The Delaware River, the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi, provides drinking water for 15 million people, including the cities of Philadelphia and New York. The basin is home to nationally designated wild and scenic rivers, endangered species, and a thriving population of American Bald Eagles.

A map of the Marcellus Shale along the Appalachian Basin


The Delaware River basin is also underlain by the Marcellus Shale formation which is the largest known shale deposit in the world with an estimated 488 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas.

Can this natural gas be recovered without destroying the Delaware River’s ecosystems and recreational areas and without endangering the water supply and quality of life for millions of residents? The wells needed for the drilling would require 1-3 million gallons of water per day, per well, with 30-70 percent of that water would come back as wastewater that would 5-10 percent saltier than the ocean, says Robert Ryan, assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Temple. That wastewater will have to be treated. One early proposal to truck that wastewater to Chester for treatment has already been scrapped.

Ryan has helped organize a public forum, “Protecting Our Waters: The Impact of Marcellus Shale Drilling in the Delaware River Basin,” for Temple’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, along with Damascus Citizens for Sustainability. Tonight’s forum, which will be held from 7-9:45 p.m. in Room 021 of Gladfelter Hall, 12th and Berks Sts., will feature activists, lawyers and engineers discussing the potential environmental, legal and social impacts of drilling for natural gas within the Delaware River Basin area of the Marcellus Shale, particularly in the counties of Northeast Pennsylvania.

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