Baseline Testing is the Most Important Thing You Can Do Before Fracking Starts

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Baseline Water Well and Flow Testing:

Testing your water for flow rate and chemical contaminants prior to high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in your community provides evidence should future issues arise. Water wells within at least 1.5 miles from fracking sites should be tested. Residents even further from any fracking site should also consider getting their water tested. For fracking wells that fall under the state’s definition of high-volume fracking, the first 1500 feet from the fracking site will be tested by the industry as required by state law.  However, the well bore may extend horizontally about 1.5 miles (7920 feet) in any direction. Well water could be affected anywhere along the horizontal pipe.  Fractures and contaminant migration may extend the risk radius even further.   Also, surface spills from accidents potentially lead to water well contamination. If your water becomes contaminated after fracking, baseline testing (prior to fracking) is necessary to have a chance of holding the industry accountable.  It should also be noted that the state provides no baseline water testing for fracking wells which do not fall under the state’s definition of high-volume fracking, so it may be advisable to have your water tested if there are any oil/gas wells in your area. 

What the tests should include:

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), PAHs (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), alcohols, BTEX/naphthalene, lead, chloride, sulfate and methane are some of the main chemicals to test for. Testing for water soluble radium, uranium, cesium and thorium has also been suggested.  Laboratories themselves will also have lists of substances for which to test, prior to fracking.

The state is requiring industry to test for the following substances for anyone living within 1500 feet of a high-volume fracking well site: pH; total dissolved solids, dissolved methane, dissolved propane, dissolved ethane, alkalinity, and specific conductance; chloride, sulfate, arsenic, barium, calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, selenium, cadmium, lead, manganese, mercury, and silver; BTEX; and gross alpha and beta particles to determine the presence of any naturally occurring radioactive materials.

Laboratories which perform water testing:

(Note: SAFE does not endorse any lab, and labs may be available which are not listed here.)

Teklab, Inc. Collinsville, IL has a webpage dedicated specifically to baseline water testing before fracking starts, and periodic testing during and after fracking.

Scientific Control Laboratories, Inc. is a company based in Illinois which offers various testing of water, soil, and air

The Illinois EPA has a list of labs accredited to test for chemical analysis at

The IEPA website states that some companies are willing to come to your residence to take samples.

SAFE has heard, from Pennsylvania landowners, that some fracking companies in Pennsylvania have claimed that if a resident sends the sample to the lab, it is inadmissible as evidence, since the landowner technically could have sent a sample from anywhere.  So, having a testing company come to your residence to collect the sample may be advisable.

A basic chemical test will cost about $400 depending on what laboratory you’ve chosen.

Also pertinent: A baseline mineral test from the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) starts at $35. It does not indicate industrial pollutants, but will show mineral content, total dissolved solids, and pH, all of which can change if your water becomes contaminated.  For more information, contact the ISWS Public Service Laboratory (217) 333-9321

In-Home Routine Water Testing After Fracking Begins:

After fracking begins, routine in-home testing can be done to help determine if your water needs to be re-tested in a laboratory. A conductivity tester or a pH level testing kit will help indicate changes in water quality. It is advisable that residents check their well water conductivity and/or pH once a week for any significant changes, which would signal the need to retest the water in a lab.

Conductivity is a simple measure that reflects the amount of salts in a water sample.  Salts increase the ability of a solution to conduct electricity.  A simple conductivity probe measures the amount of electric current a sample conducts.  This number relates to the amounts of salts which are dissolved in a water sample.  The basic unit of measurement of conductivity is siemens. Conductivity is measured in microsiemens per centimeter (µs/cm).

Hundreds of chemicals are found in waters associated with fracking.  Conductivity is an easy measurement that can help identify waters that may have been polluted by fracking or other activities.  Increases in the conductivity of a water sample may indicate that waters have been impacted by fracking activities.

Conductivity testing guidelines:

Calibrate your tester according to package directions.

For sampling drinking water from your home, it is ideal to sample from a spigot that has water which hasn’t reached your house’s water softener.  If this isn’t possible, please sample water from the tap on your kitchen sink.

1)  Allow the water to run for a few seconds before filling your container.
2)  Rinse the prepared sampling container three times in the running water.
3)  Place meter in filled container and test.
4)  Compare with your State or professional lab test.  If there is a significant increase in conductivity, or if the reading is over 700 µS/cm, it is advisable to consider getting a further State or professional test on your water.  For comparison of typical readings for various substances, see the table below.
5)  Record your readings.

Relative conductivities for comparison:

  • Distilled Water : 0.5 to 3 µS/cm
  • Streams supporting good mixed fisheries have a range between 150 and 500 µS/cm.
  • Illinois surface water sources used as public water supply are supposed to have no more than 500 mg/L total dissolved solids (around 700 µS/cm conductivity).
  • Rivers in the United States can range from 50 to 1500 µS/cm.
  • Industrial waters can range as high as 10,000 µS/cm.
  • Ocean Water (Mid-Atlantic): 53,000 µS/cm
  • Marcellus shale frack flowback water: 79,500- 470,000 µS/cm

A large increase in conductivity of your well water will indicate that your aquifer may be impacted by spills or leaks from fracking or other activities.

For more information:

An online source for conductivity testers:

A pH tester can be purchased in the pool section at a Walmart, at a pet store, or at various online vendors. A significant change in pH indicates the need for further testing in a laboratory.  For more information on pH testing, please visit   For more info on pH testing results (acidic versus alkaline), please visit

Air Quality and Radon Testing:

Air pollution is common in fracking areas. Test your air quality before fracking begins.

A simple home radon testing kit can be installed. During the process of fracking, radon can be released. It is recommended to install a radon monitor prior to fracking.  For general information on radon, this site can be helpful

For radon testing kits, here are some examples:

Baseline air monitoring for PAHs and VOCs  is also available through independent testing laboratories.  Prerecorded evidence and testing verifies a healthy environment to your insurance company and officials if you file a complaint.

To contact the Illinois EPA Bureau of Air, visit

Scientific Control Laboratories, Inc. is a company based in Illinois which offers various testing of water, soil, and air

Teklab, Inc. also offers VOC air testing

Listed below are some in-home test kits.  They are not necessarily accredited laboratories.

VOC/Benzene tester

Benzene patch tester

Home test kit for VOC

Particulate Matter

Volatile Organic Compound Blood Testing:

Baseline blood tests ensure that you have not been exposed to industrial frack chemicals commonly used. The tests are not covered by insurance and must be done prior to fracking beginning. If, after exposure to fracking operations, blood work shows a rise in fracking-related chemicals, it may help prove that the elevated levels are related to fracking. Your physician must order the kit and lab work to be performed. These tests run about $200.  Please visit the following website for information:

Other preventive measures:

• Make a detailed record using photos and videos of your community, nearby roads and your home. Include audio recordings to compare noise levels before and during fracking operations. Video areas around you at night. Take notice of wildlife in the surrounding areas.

• Nonstop truck traffic can destroy roads. 24-hour operation of compressors, lights & flares will light up the countryside and present noise pollution. Fracking “quakes” can cause damage to interior spaces of homes. Wildlife will be displaced. Evidence should be compiled before fracking begins in case you want to file a complaint in the future.

• Recent science has proven that fracking and its subsequent disposal of waste into injection wells increases the likelihood of earthquakes. It is advised to check with your homeowners insurance agent about earthquake coverage. (Enhanced Remote Earthquake Triggering at Fluid-Injection Sites in the Midwestern United States, Nicholas J. van der Elst et al. Science 341, 164 (2013))

Local governing:

Ask your local elected officials about noise & light ordinances, road weights & limits, and pollution control. Local governments have the authority to put bans and ordinances in place. Ask about first responders. Are they properly equipped and trained to handle fracking accidents, spills and fires? Do they know what to do if illegal dumping occurs? Drilling mud and waste should not be dumped in local landfills or buried near the site. Are the local landfills equipped with radiation detectors? Furthermore, industry has been known to dispose of toxic processed water by spraying it on gravel roads as a dust deterrent, even though this is illegal. This spray is loaded with dangerous chemicals, salts and radioactive elements, such as radium, strontium, & uranium.

Contesting permits:  

The new laws allow for residents near proposed frack sites, as well as town and county officials, to contest a permit if there is reasonable cause. After the Department of Natural Resources files the rules, more will be known about how the process will work. We do not know when the rules will be complete and approved. It could be anywhere from a few months to a year. It is advised that you seek legal advice in this process.

Landowner Rights:

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your legal rights, whether you’ve signed a lease or own your mineral rights, you may have room to negotiate. Know your rights as a tax paying property owner regarding forced integration. Forced integration, also known as forced pooling, occurs when a property owner is forced into allowing his property to be used by the fracking company. It is best to seek legal advice for property issues. Please visit for general information on landowner rights, leasing, and forced pooling in Illinois, and seek the professional advice of a lawyer for any questions regarding your situation.

Reporting problems:

Because the state lacks adequate staff to monitor drilling activities, the IL Attorney General’s office has indicated that citizens should be vigilant and watchful. Understand the laws and your rights. Pay attention to disposal wells on or near your property. Ask to have them inspected.

If you’re aware of an accident, surface spill, illegal dumping or water well contamination call the numbers below. Write down the name of the person who received your report, plus the date & time of your call.

IL EPA, Benton, IL:   888-372-1996, 618-993-7200

US EPA-Region 5:   312-353-2000

IL Dept. of Natural Resources:   217-782-6302

IL Dept. of Natural Resources:   217-782-7756

IL Attorney General:   888-288-9436

ISWS water test:   217-333-9321

IL Emergency Management Agency:  217-782-2700

IL Governor:  217-782-0244

Make sure your local and state elected officials are also aware of any report you file.  SAFE would also like to hear from you so that we can compile reports and help with follow up.  Email:


Note: The material on this page is intended for informational purposes only.  Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAFE) is not responsible for the choices or actions of individuals.  The ideas presented are suggestions, and do not constitute specific or professional recommendations.  SAFE does not endorse any product or company.