McMicken College of Arts & SciencesMcMicken College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of Cincinnati

McMicken College of Arts & Sciences

Department of Geology

Department of Geology

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the purpose of the study? We want to know if groundwater quality is affected by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in eastern Ohio.  Previous studies in Pennsylvania have indicated that fracking can contribute to high concentrations of methane, the primary component of natural gas, in groundwater wells.

2. Who conducts this study? Researchers at the University of Cincinnati within the Department of Geology.

3. Is your water testing free? Yes. Water testing is completely free to the landowner.

4. Will I receive my water testing results?
Yes. It usually takes between one to two months after the sampling date to analyze the water samples and obtain the results. When the results are ready, a letter containing your personal results and an explanation of the results will be mailed or emailed to you.

5. Will you publish my personal information or results? The water sampling results from this study may be published, but your name and address will not be included in the publication.  Your results will remain anonymous.

6. How often do you sample? We aim to sample three to four times a year.

7. Who performs the water sampling? A trained member of our research team will perform the water testing quickly and efficiently. 

8. How long does sampling take? Sampling is a very fast and easy process – it takes less than fifteen minutes!

9. Do you have to come inside my home to take a sample? In most cases, we sample at an outdoor spigot or pump and do not come inside.  If you do not have an outdoor spigot, then our team may come inside to sample at your faucet or basement storage tank.

10. Do I have to be home when you sample? Most homeowners prefer to be home when we take a sample so that we can answer any questions and explain our project more thoroughly; however, homeowners do not have to be at their home or property when we sample. If a spigot or pump is easily accessible to us, we can sample anytime.

11. What are you testing? Do you test for bacteria? Heavy metals? The water samples will be tested for many chemicals, but our research is focused on measurements of methane. Methane is the main component of natural gas but can also be found naturally in groundwater. The objective of our study is to determine the amount of methane in the water samples.  We also use isotopic measurements, a type of scientific “fingerprinting” technique, to determine whether this methane originates from natural gas or natural processes in soil.  Additionally, we measure the pH (acidity) and electrical conductivity (salt content) of groundwater.  These can be important indicators of the presence of fracking fluid in groundwater. Lastly, we measure for total dissolved organic carbon and total nitrogen in groundwater, which can indicate if there are high levels of industrial chemicals or fertilizers in water. We do not test for the presence of bacteria, heavy metals, or other common minerals in groundwater.

12. Where do you sample in Ohio? Our GRO sampling region focuses on areas with increasing amounts of shale gas development and unconventional gas wells. Currently, our team samples focuses on sampling in Carroll, Columbiana, and Belmont counties.

13. Who funds your project? Are you funded by a fracking company? We are not funded in any way by energy or fracking companies or by anti-fracking groups. Our funding comes from two non-profit, philanthropic organizations, the Deer Creek Foundation and the Alice Weston Foundation. We also receive private donations from individuals.

14. How can I learn more or ask to participate? If you would like to learn more about the study or are interested in having a water sample taken at your home, please contact us! You can call Claire Botner, the graduate student working on the project, at 606-521-1112 or email her at botnerec@mail.uc.edu. You can also visit our “Contact Us” page for more information on how to get in touch with our team.