Talking about a 17-fold increase in methane presence (which, of course, came from the highly mobile natural gas being freed by the fracking) doesn’t say anything about what the absolute methane levels are. Methane can asphyxiate at high concentrations, but it is biologically non poisonous to humans. If it comes remotely close to hazardous, there is a true issue. But it would be very cheap, and a logical solution, for the drillers to fit such affected wells with methane vents and, perhaps as a compensation, to guarantee the well operation against any failure for fifty years.
If it was due to hydraulic fracturing, they could measure chemicals for that operation. But they never have done so.
There has been methane recorded in water wells going back 100 years or more. Many sites in Pennsylvania and other locations have dealt with then long before there was drilling.
Duke Study on Methane in Water Wells
The researchers stated that, despite widespread public concerns about drinking water contamination from hydraulic fracturing, such concerns "lack a strong scientific foundation."
For the wells they examined, the researchers found that methane concentrations generally were higher in samples from water wells located within one kilometer of an active gas well, as compared to samples from water wells located further from any active gas well. But there were exceptions. Further, the researchers found methane in 85 percent of the water wells they sampled, "regardless of gas industry operations." In other words, the researchers found methane in a large majority of the water wells they sampled in the Marcellus area, even when the water wells being sampled were not located near active gas wells.
Methane in Water Wells
Methane gas can occur naturally in water wells and when it does, it presents unique problems for water well drilling contractors.
The gas that causes problems in water wells can occur in either bedrock or overburden wells. Methane is generated in source rock, then “stored” in a reservoir with some type of cap rock or impervious layer to contain the gas underground.
Natural Gas - the modern energy form
The Sydney Morning Herald - Jul 10, 1973
The modern history of natural gas began in the United States in 1821 when bubbles were noticed in a water well being drill at Fredonia, New York State. The well was only 27ft deep. William Hart, a local gunsmith, piped the gas into a nearby coaching inn to provide lighting using log “pipes”.