What’s in the Groundwater?

While pursuing my Master’s degree at St.F.X., I am working with Owen Sherwood and Dalhousie University to determine the source and ssssthe concentrations of dissolved methane in groundwater in Nova Scotia, as part of the Gas Seepage Project (GaSP). We are investigating areas that have drilled groundwater wells in close proximity to abandoned coal mines.

My undergraduate research project with Dave Risk combined my Aquatic Resources and Earth Sciences backgrounds; the project assessed methane gas in groundwater in the Stellarton region, and built upon a study by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources that observed higher concentrations of methane gas compared to the rest of the province. The current GaSP campaign is a natural fit with my interests and an excellent opportunity to continue research on methane in groundwater in Nova Scotia!

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 2.30.33 PMMy present research with Owen will generate baseline data for levels of groundwater methane in locations associated with hydrocarbon developments in Nova Scotia. Methane gas is not considered toxic to human health, but it poses explosive hazards in high concentrations as it is extremely flammable and it is the most potent greenhouse gas.

We are tracing isotopic signatures, which are like “gas fingerprints” that will help us determine the source of mystery methane. The isotopic signatures will identify whether the methane has a thermogenic, biogenic or mixed source of origin. This data will help us assess and monitor water quality in target areas, which is influential on potential future developments.

jjjjWhen we were out in the field certain sites had characteristics associated with methane gas and coal formations. We observed water that was either bubbly, black in colour, or had the lovely scent of rotten eggs! This gave us a good scent that methane gas was in the air…and the groundwater! We even had a Global News crew join us in the field for media coverage where they witnessed that research takes teamwork, time, patience, and getting a little dirty, which their journalist, Ross Lord, experienced first hand by dog paw.

P.S. Ross, I hope that the mud stains on your pants from the homeowner’s dog during filming came out. I guess the dog wanted to share the spotlight!

By Kim Taylor