Kayla Christian

Kayla Christian

Years participated in RESESS:

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An Overview

Major: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Academic Affiliation: Syracuse University
Research Mentors: Laura Lautz
Writing Mentor: Laura Lautz


Kayla is a Syracuse University graduate student. The majority of her undergraduate research focused on mineralogy. She recently switched over to hydrology and is hoping to incorporate outreach into her graduate program. Her summer project helped characterize groundwater quality in New York in anticipation of any hydraulic fracturing taking place in the region.


The current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in New York State (NYS) provides an opportunity to collect baseline shallow groundwater quality data pre-hydraulic fracturing, which is essential for determining the natural variability of groundwater chemistry and to evaluate future claims of impaired groundwater quality if hydraulic fracturing occurs in the State. Concerns regarding the future environmental impact of shale gas extraction in NYS include potential shallow groundwater contamination due to migration of methane or formation water from shale gas extraction sites. Treatment, storage and disposal of saline flowback fluids after gas extraction could also be a source of water contamination. In this study, we combine southern NYS shallow groundwater chemistry data from Project Shale-Water Interaction Forensic Tools (SWIFT, n=60), the National Uranium Resource Evaluation program (NURE, n=684), and the USGS 305(b) Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring program (USGS, n=89) to examine evidence of formation water mixing with groundwater using the methodology of Warner et al. (2012). Groundwater characterized as low salinity (<20 mg/L Cl-) accounted for 72% of samples and 28% of samples had high salinity (>20 mg/L Cl-). A plot of bromide versus chloride shows high salinity groundwater samples with Br/Cl ratios >0.0001 fall on the mixing line between low salinity groundwater and Appalachian Basin formation water. Based on the observed linear relationship between bromide and chloride, it appears there is up to 1% formation water mixing with shallow groundwater in the region. The presence of formation water in shallow groundwater would indicate the existence of natural migratory pathways between deep formation wells and shallow groundwater aquifers. A plot of sodium versus chloride also illustrates a linear trend for Type D waters (R2= 0.776), but the relationship is weaker than that for bromide versus chloride (R2= 0.924). Similar linear relationships are not observed between other ions and chloride, including Mg, Ca, and Sr. If high salinity groundwater samples from NYS contain small percentages of formation water, we expect linear relationships between chloride and these other, generally conservative ions. The absence of these linear relationships suggests high salinity could be associated with contamination by landfill leachate, septic effluent, road salt, or other potential sources of elevated salt. Future work needs to determine if mixing of shallow groundwater with other potential sources of salinity, such as road deicers, can explain the observed linear relationships. Strontium isotopes from shallow groundwater samples will also be compared to those for NY formation water.