In this newly release video by RT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1A3x7AyIVo

A man sets water on fire that is pouring from his well, the narrator reads:

The local government of Texas, tells Steve Lipsky that the water from his well, water that he can set on fire is safe to drink and to use in his home?

RT Implies that it is not safe, and when viewing this video I get this first impression, but I am wondering if this true or not? The questions is:

Water that can be set on fire, is it safe to:

  • Drink
  • Use in home for ordinary purpose

P.S. To clarify, this is not specific to fracking, it can be any other cause.

P.S.S I am also not talking about alcohol, this is purely about water from natural sources (like water well)

  • 2
    I'd say that strongly depends on what stuff actually burns there. Is the question "Is that water in this video safe to drink?" or "Are there flammable forms of water that are safe to drink?" or "Generally, should I drink burning water?"?
    – Jens
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 14:58
  • There is no proof that fracking is causing this, it might be natural causes, I don't know, that's why I am wondering. But is there ANY case when it can be safe ? Maybe I should rephrase that ?
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 14:59
  • 4
    There are flammable alcoholic drinks. Not really safe, but not frowned upon either. =)
    – Jens
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 15:01
  • 1
    From other sources I've seen the most likely assumption would be that what is burning here is natural gas. Contamination of the ground water with gas seems to be a somewhat common occurrence near natural gas wells. I'd put the burden on identifying whatever might be in the water on the answerer in this case.
    – Mad Scientist
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 15:27
  • 1
    @Jens That rather depends on the clubs. In the proper bars, burning drinks are very much frowned upon. ;-) Commented Feb 3, 2014 at 10:37

1 Answer 1


First of all, Google can find quite a lot of background on the dispute between Steve Lipsky and Range Resources Corp. This article is a summary of the situation, where Range Resources Corp. has been drilling for gas close to Lipsky's estate, after which Lipsky is blaming the company for ruining a well, from which he used to get his fresh water supply. It is perhaps also worth to note that Lipsky has been convicted for being 'part of a "conspiracy to defame" the company because he'd circulated a video "calculated to alarm the public into believing the water was burning."'. Assuming that the verdict was correct, Lipsky has previously distributed videos with fraudulent claims about the water from his well burning.

The news article I linked to, mentions methane contamination as the reason for the burning water, which is consistent with the fact that Range has been drilling for natural gas nearby. Methane is indeed a highly inflammable gas (mixed with air, the methane content must exceed appr 5% for the mix to be inflammable) and it seriously contributes to the greenhouse effect, but except for that, it is pretty harmless with no known toxic effects (material data safety sheet). There are even relatively high levels of methane in the humane digestion tract. According to this study, the average flatus (fart) has a methane content of about 7%.

Now, methane is barely soluble in water, according to Wikipedia, only 22.7mg/l. If you look closely at the video from 0:20 to 0:30, there is also no obvious proof that the water is actually burning. To me, it looks as if a gas escaping the water pipe is burning at the opening. If the water had actually been burning, why wouldn't the water jet burn further away from the pipe opening as well?

So to answer your questions:

Is it safe to drink water, which can be set on fire?

In this case, there is no sign that the water is actually burning. If whatever burns at the pipe opening is methane gas, it is in no way harmful to drink water having been in contact with methane gas or with small amounts of methane disolved.

Is it for ordinary home purposes safe to use water, which can be set on fire?

Still doubting that the water is actually burning, what may be a problem is that methane is released in closed rooms through a water pipe network. Even here, small levels are uncritical, but depending on how fast methane is released and how fast the air in the room is replaced, there may of course be a risk, that explosive levels of methane are reached.

  • Though this answer effectively addresses the situation that made OP ask his question, it doesn't actually answer the question.
    – Publius
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:29
  • 2
    If my assumption that the water is not burning is correct (and it is supported by the referenced verdict), the answer explains why the quote leading to the questions is incorrect. The scope is of course limited to this specific case, as there are probably many other methods to make water seem to burn, where the remaining water is not safe to drink. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 22:38
  • I think that clarification belongs in the answer.
    – Publius
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 23:14
  • 2
    @Avi Isn't the answer clear already: that the notable claim in question is of methane-in-water or methane-and-water burning?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 23:36
  • 1
    Answer is well made, the original question assumed that it was the water burning, but it is most likely a gas that is coming out of the well pipe. I am willing to bet if this water will be gathered in a container, it won't be lit by fire.
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 11:07

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