Toxic fluids used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing likely escaped an unlined borehole and migrated thousands of feet into a residential drinking-water supply in Pennsylvania, according to a study published Monday.

At least three water wells in Bradford County, located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, were found to be contaminated with dangerous levels of methane and other substances in 2010. The incident was one of several involving Chesapeake Energy that prompted state environmental regulators to levy a record $1 million fine against the driller in May 2011.

Penn State University researchers detected in one of the water wells a minute amount of a chemical compound often found in drilling and fracking fluids, according to the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The compound, 2-BE, has a wide variety of industrial and household uses, and is commonly found in paint, cosmetics and cleaners, but the authors identified gas drilling as the most probable source.

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