Threat of Groundwater Contamination Impacts Price of Homes Near Shale Gas Wells

Home prices fell in some parts of the Marcellus Shale region of the country after drilling began, and rose in other parts, and the difference was whether the families’ drinking water came from wells or municipal water mains, a study by Resources for the Future (RFF) reported in late June.

For homes within about 1 mile of a shale gas well, sale prices rose 10% from 2004 to 2009 if families were served by piped-in water, most likely due to expectations of increased value from gas drilling leases, RFF concluded.

Prices of homes dependent upon well water fell 16% in that period, which the RFF researchers said may be linked to fears of potential groundwater contamination from shale drilling operations.

The survey covered homes in Washington County, Pennsylvania, south of Pittsburgh, where the number of gas wells jumped from five in 2005 to more than 490 wells by 2009.

The swing in home values was a significant 26%. “Even if shale gas operations do not contaminate groundwater in the short run, the stigma from the possibility of future groundwater contamination may negatively affect property values, resulting in important long-term consequences for homeowners,” the researchers said.

RFF released this study and others June 27 from its 18-month examination of risks and regulations surrounding shale gas development.

A theme in several investigations is the lack of credible data on the impacts of drilling operations, members of the RFF research teams said.

“We have no data whatsoever on actual degradation of groundwater. We don’t know,” said RFF’s Lucija Muehlenbachs, commenting on the housing prices study. “This is just perceptions” by county residents, but perceptions matter in this case, she said.

NGWA has published an information brief on wells that are in proximity to natural gas/oil installations.Click here to read the information brief.