Case Study 10 | Natural Gas Region / Frac Sand in My Well?! Gray-White Sticky Material


Luzerne County, Pennsylvania


Natural Gas Investigation - Frac Sand in My Well?! Gray-White Sticky Material

Well in pit

The well is located in a pit - Notice the large opening that goes directly into the well. The well is fitted with an older well-seal. Notice that the bottom of the pit shows evidence of a water mark just below the "gray" electrical conduit  and notice the green surface corrosion on the copper piping.

The material coming from the well.

Level 1 Observational Testing / Water Issues

1. The homeowner complained of intermittent problems with fine particles and sandy particles in the water system which already had a particle filter.

2. We visited the site and evaluated the system.

3. We found accumulations of very fine material in the filter housing and on the filter.

4. Particles - they were not well-rounded and when concentrated, the material was slightly sticky. The material was gray, clear, and brown in color but some particles had a rusty appearance.

5. We reviewed the historic water quality - no methane problems, no evidence of saline water impacts; water turbidity - 0.6 ntu.

6. There were intermittent Bacterial problems.

7. The toilet tank had a coating which was not really slimy.

8. We surveyed the well with a camera. The casing was only 40 feet below ground and there was no grout around the annular space outside of the casing. A driveshoe was present but a grayish material was observed just below the driveshoe and in the fractured zone below the driveshoe.

9. We returned after a rain storm to find water cascading into the well at a depth of42 feet. untreated well water turbidity increased to 5 ntu.

Evaluation & Inspection
Level 2 and Level 3 Testing

We recommended a Level 3 Information Water Quality Test, plus additional Level 4 testing for Total Coliform and standard plate count with Level 3 testing for Slime Bacteria, Sulfur Bacteria, and Iron Bacteria.


Size of Particles

Clay - < 0.002 millimeters (mm)

Silt - 0.002 to < 0.05 mm

Sand 0.05 to 2 mm

v. fine sand - 0.05 to < 0.10 mm

fine sand - 0.10 to < 0.25 mm

medium sand - 0.25 to 0.5 mm

coarse sand 0.5 to 1.0 mm

v. coarse sand 1.0 to 2 mm


Frac Sands are typically 0.21 mm to 0.85 mm, See PDF

Test Results

1. There was no evidence of methane or salt or saline water contamination.

2. The particles appeared to be a combination of silt and very fine sand which was not well-rounded with slime bacteria and other iron oxides - very atypical of frac sand.

3. The particles appeared to be entering the well at about 42 feet and the steel casing was rusting, contributing rust particles to the water.

4. There is a pathway which appears to be associated with a fractured zone in the rock that is allowing some of the overlying unconsolidated material to migrate into the well following a recharge event.

Treatment Action

1. Recommendation - Line the upper portion of the well to extend the cased zone to approximately 65 feet.
2. Recommendation - Shock Disinfect and retest.


1. After lining the well, the problem was solved. The gritty material in the well water was gone.
2. The well did not have enough casing to properly separate the shallow and deep groundwater aquifer and this caused the near-surface water to impact the deeper aquifer.

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