Almost the whole state of West Virginia rests atop the Marcellus Formation, a swath of sedimentary rock that stretches across large portions of northern Appalachia. Much of the Marcellus contains black shale, which, in turn, holds the richest deposits of natural gas in the nation. Getting to that gas typically requires hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a., “fracking,” in operations like this one. The fracking process here, as elsewhere, depends upon vast amounts of water and chemicals to free the gas and bring it to the surface. Scientists have recently expressed concern that water pollution from fracking may increase endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, in surface and ground water. MU’s Susan C. Nagel, an associate professor in MU’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, has recently found that these fears may be well founded. In a study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, Nagel and her research team detected elevated levels of EDC activity in the surface water immediately downstream of a hydraulic fracturing wastewater injection disposal facility in West Virginia. The levels were 10 to 100 times greater than background levels upstream, and within the range associated with negative health effects in aquatic organisms, other animals and humans.

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