The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) on Tuesday released a Recommended Practice (RP) for pre-drill water supply surveys, the third in a series of shale development recommendations by the industry-backed organization. The latest RP is intended to ensure that homeowners’ water is properly tested prior to oil and gas development in their areas.

In its most recent RP, the MSC noted that Pennsylvania regulations require natural gas producers to sample and test — with the owner’s consent — all water supplies within 2,500 feet of a proposed Marcellus Shale natural gas well. These pre-drill tests, which are conducted by certified laboratories, provide a baseline analysis of water chemistry prior to site preparation and development. The organization added that many producers test well beyond the 2,500 feet requirement and were doing so prior to Pennsylvania enacting these new regulations.

The MSC said the tests are especially important in Pennsylvania as nearly 40% of the state’s water wells do not meet at least one safe drinking water standard and another 20% of wells contain pre-existing methane, according to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

“For years, well before shale gas production began in the Commonwealth, straightforward science has informed us that Pennsylvania’s groundwater chemistry drastically varies across regions,” said MSC President Kathryn Klaber. “This Recommended Practice builds upon what’s required by law and lays out in great detail steps operators can take to help ensure homeowners have a clear understanding of their water quality before natural gas-related activities begin.

“These tests, paid for by the natural gas producer, are shared with the well owners and state regulators, serving a critical public health function in many cases.”

The pre-drill water supply surveys RP, which was developed by technical experts from a host of MSC member companies, recommends:

“Additionally, the MSC is developing a robust pre-drill water quality database,” Klaber said. “When complete, this first-of-a-kind library will serve as an important environmental and public health tool to help address water quality challenges that have persisted in rural communities for decades.”

The MSC’s first RP, issued in April, focused on site planning, development and restoration (see Shale Daily, April 30). The second RP, which is aimed at bolstering the Marcellus Shale region’s supply chain by laying out a blueprint for how small- and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of opportunities, was released in mid-July (see Shale Daily, July 19).

The MSC said the RPs are aimed at reinforcing the MSC’s Guiding Principlesto “continuously improve our practices and seek transparency in our operations” while furthering a fact-based dialogue that encourages responsible American natural gas development.