Methane Gas in Water
Have your water tested if you suspect methane gas in your water.
Image via NOAA’s National Ocean Service (flickr)
Methane Gas in Water
Gas is always a hot topic in the news, isn’t it? Gas shortage, gas prices, wars over oil, but I’m not going to talk about that kind of gas in this blog post. I’m going to talk about my passion – water – and gas in our water supplies, which can be a serious concern. Much to their dismay, residents throughout the U.S. have a new gas problem to deal with: methane gas in water. Of particular concern are those whose water supply comes via wells. How does methane gas get into water and what can we do about it?
Q: What is this stuff?
A: Let’s start by discussing what methane gas actually is. The experts at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana State Department of Health explain that methane gas is actually a hydrocarbon that is the chief component in natural gas. It can be found in “coal seams, oil and gas formations, organic rich shale formations, and environments with decaying organic matter such as landfills and swamps.” And, yes, this natural hydrocarbon is one of the baddies that contributes to global warming. But how is it that we are now finding methane gas in well water?
Q: What the frack?
A: You remember my blog post about fracking? Well, many argue that fracking – which sounds like and should be a curse word – is responsible for the methane gas being found in our water supplies. Many gas companies’ frack to extract natural gas from bedrock. High-pressured water and chemicals are used to break up the rock to get to the natural gas, i.e., methane. As with any water-related procedure, fracking produces run-off, and it is argued extensively by environmental specialists that this is one reason why Americans must deal with methane gas in water. Naturally, the gas companies dispute this and, unfortunately, many states and the federal government still allow this natural gas extraction process, despite the fact that methane gas in well water is a common issue for those living near fracking sites.
Q: Do I have methane in my water?
A: It isn’t always easy to tell if the water coming into your household contains concentrations of methane gas in it, but there are some signs you can look for. Methane gas itself doesn’t have any color, odor, or taste, so don’t try to figure out if there’s methane gas in water flowing out of your tap by chugging down a glass of H2O. Don’t try lighting your tap water either. Sure, it’s a full-proof way to know if there’s gas in your water, but it’s also dangerous because the methane will ignite if there’s enough of it! Our Indiana experts suggest people look for the following signs if they suspect methane gas in their water:
- Listen for gurgling or bubbling in your water well.
- Does your water look like club soda when it comes out of your faucet? Effervescence is another sign.
- Can you hear water bubbling in your pipes or when your toilet refills? That is also a sign.
Of course, these are just symptoms of methane gas in well water, not sure-fire confirmation. If you suspect you have it in yours, contact your state’s Department of Health to find out whom it recommends to test for methane gas in water.
Q: Should I be worried?
A: Many try to downplay the dangers of methane gas in our water supplies. I, for one, always believe you can never be too cautious when it comes to any form of water pollution. First of all, methane is a gas and is therefore explosive. Despite the fact that it is in the water, once the water is exposed to air, the gas dissipates and can explode. Secondly, while it is generally believed that the methane dissipates immediately and consumption is minimal, a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that any gas found in water, including methane, can cause blackouts, dizziness, high blood pressure, leg swelling, and rashes. So, yes, if you suspect methane gas in your water, you should probably get that checked.
Q: What precautions should I take overall?
A: Methane or no methane, I have written plenty about the nasty stuff found in our drinking water, whether it comes from a municipal source or a well. There’s a lot to be concerned about in our water supplies, so even if you live far away from fracking and any threat of methane gas, you should consider properly filtering all of the water that comes into your household. You don’t want methane gas in your water, but you also don’t want contamination, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals in your water either, and if you’re taking your water straight out of the tap, you’ve probably got all of that in there and more!
Please read more about the concern over methane gas in our water supplies here:
- Methane Chemical Fact Sheet
- Methane Gas and Your Water Well Fact Sheet
- Methane in Water
- Studies Find Methane Gas in PA Drinking Water
- Methane Found in Drinking Water Near Natural Gas Wells Study
- Methane Gas and Your Water Well
- Methane Natural Gas in Ohio Private Water Wells
- Hydrofracking Changes Water Wells
Written By: Lynn Taylor