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Project SWIFT: Shale-Water Interaction Forensic Tools

Developing sensitive tests for detecting contamination associated with shale bed methane production in the Appalachian Basin

Maintaining access to abundant clean water, while also meeting our increasing demand for cleaner energy is a major societal challenge. The largest natural gas play in the United States, the Marcellus Shale, is tapped using a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking. In contrast to the recent shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, New York State has been under a hydrofracking moratorium. There is an unprecedented opportunity to complete a thorough, large-scale, unbiased assessment of water quality pre-hydrofracking, to facilitate detection of water quality impairment post-hydrofracking.

We are initiating a large-scale water quality program that will disseminate science-based information about hydraulic fracturing to stakeholders, while also involving them in the development of a publically-available water quality database and a geochemical fingerprinting tool specifically developed for identifying potential water quality impairment due to hydraulic fracturing.  We are developing a geochemical fingerprinting tool to unambiguously identify contamination of surface water and groundwater due to activities related to energy production via hydraulic fracturing.  We are involving local residents of communities underlain by the Marcellus Shale in a large-scale, unbiased sampling of the region’s surface and groundwater quality.  We plan to use the results to develop and disseminate a new database, available regionally and nationally, on water quality of surface water and groundwater vulnerable to future impacts of hydrofracking.  We hope our new geochemical fingerprinting tools will lead to science-based decision making about the sources of contamination in regions where hydraulic fracturing is occurring and will lay the framework for developing best management practices for monitoring evolving water quality in shale gas basins.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EAR-1313522.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Media Coverage

Groundwater Monitors Create Database
Tompkins Weekly, Feb 10-16, 2014 (p3)
Scientists find new tools for tracing fracking impacts
Scranton Times-Tribune, May 20, 2013
In the Fracking Zone
Syracuse University Magazine, Spring 2013
Project SWIFT will create water quality database in Southern Tier
NPR's Innovation Trail, Oct 1, 2012

Thank you to our Participating Homeowners!

A special thank you to the over 200 participating homeowners between 2012 and 2014!  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our project team at swift@syr.edu or (315) 443-6271.


Also, please check out our two recent publications on results of this study:


Lautz, LK, GD Hoke, Z Lu, DI Siegel, *K Christian, J Kessler, NG Teale. 2014. Using discriminant analysis to determine sources of salinity in shallow groundwater prior to hydraulic fracturing. Environmental Science & Technology, 48(16):9061–9069. doi: 10.1021/es502244v. [link to paper]


Lu, Z, S Hummel, LK Lautz, GD Hoke, X Zhou, J Leone, DI Siegel. accepted. Iodine as a sensitive tracer for detecting influence of organic-rich shale in shallow groundwater. Applied Geochemistry. doi:10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.10.019. [link to paper]