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Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said the N.B. government is developing a new regulatory system for hydro-fracking. ((CBC))

People living near hydro-fracking sites should have their well water tested, according to a researcher from Duke University in North Carolina.

The controversial mining procedure has been protested by several communities around New Brunswick and has been the focus of at least one public meeting held by the departments of Natural Resources and Environment.

Mining companies argue that if done properly the hydro-fracking process is safe and can create jobs and millions of dollars in revenue.

Rob Jackson, an author of a new study on hydro-fracking and methane gas, said his report found that people who lived less than a kilometre from gas wells had up to 17 times higher concentrations of methane in their drinking water.

In some cases it was enough to be considered an explosion hazard.

He said tests show the methane came from deep underground.

But the researcher said he cannot say for sure it was a result from hydro-fracking.

He said it is possible well casings with cracks are leaking as a result of the pressure hydro-fracking creates.

The wells studied were not tested prior to companies starting to hydro-frack in the area, which means a before-and-after comparison is not available.

He said homeowners should be proactive when it comes to testing their own water before the mining companies start their work.

"I would recommend any home owner who is near a place likely to be drilled have their well tested, and have their well tested for methane," Jackson said.

"It is expensive, it's probably $100 or more. I think it would be a prudent investment."

Jackson said none of the chemicals present in hydro-fracking fluid were found in the wells that were tested.

In the hydro-fracking process, water and other chemicals are injected into shale rock formations, which creates or widens fissures in the rock and that allows natural gas to be extracted.

Studying options

Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said her government is studying all of its options when it comes to putting in place a regulatory system for hydro-fracking.

"We are taking our time and we are doing baseline testing of wells, which is something most jurisdictions are not doing," Blaney said.

Blaney is leaving next week for Pennsylvania to tour gas industry sites in that state.

Canadian governments have been treading carefully around the contentious mining process.

The Quebec government imposed a moratorium on the practice earlier this week after receiving a major report in March.

The New Brunswick government, however, has not been willing to follow Quebec's lead.

Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup has said the provincial government will not impose a moratorium on development.

Instead, several cabinet ministers and civil servants have travelled to the United States and other Canadian provinces studying their hydro-fracking rules.

The Progressive Conservative government has said there is no rush because a full share gas operation would not be ready for three to four years in New Brunswick.

Several companies, such as SWN Resources Canada and Apache and Corridor Resources, are planning to drill for natural gas and oil.