Friday, May 25, 2012

Natural Gas Migration...again?

On the weekend of May 19, 2012, Lee Franklin of Granville Summit in Bradford County PA  noticed his drinking water well was bubbling.    Chesapeake Energy and the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA-DEP) were contacted.

Officials said methane turned up in Franklin’s well. The gas was also discovered bubbling up in a wetland area behind his home, said officials. Even Franklin’s dad, who lives just up the road, has been affected.

“It takes a month to get the tests back, we’re not taking any chances. They want to make sure we’re okay,” said Ted Franklin.

Ted Franklin said Chesapeake has provided drinking water for him and his son and crews are installing a filter so his water is safe for showers and washing dishes.
 DEP officials said the investigation centers around this Chesapeake well pad and that several nearby homes and their wells have been tested for methane. The wells at those homes tested clear but residents including Christine Pepper are nervous.
 “Unsettling, definitely unsettling, you like to know everything you do and is surrounded by is where it should be,” said Pepper.

Pepper and her two sons showed us where specialists had looked for any signs of methane on their dairy farm. Pepper is waiting to find out if they did and if her water is okay.

The same goes for Shirley Brenchley just two doors down from the Chesapeake gas well in question.

“I’m trying to go with the flow. I wish they’d make us aware of what’s happening so we know what to do and what to plan for. Should I drink that water?” Brenchley questioned.

 April 2011 Blowout
 The nearby, Morse gas well, is located not far from the Chesapeake Energy well which blew out on April 19,  2011. 

Chesapeake said the leak was sealed on April 21, 2011 and the well was fully controlled on April 25.  Chesapeake Energy  was fined $250,000 for the April 2011 incident.   Chesapeake Energy downplayed the environmental impact of a Leroy Twp. 10,000-gallon wastewater spill, blamed a vendor for the equipment failure that precipitated it, and took issue with regulators' account of the incident.

Prior to the April 21, 2011 blowout, the PA DEP had fined Chesapeake a record $1.1 million for a series of other incidents. The fine included a $900,000 penalty for allowing methane to migrate up a faulty well in Bradford County contaminating 16 families' drinking water. The balance was a $188,000 fine for a Feb. 23 tank fire at a well site in Avella, Washington County that injured three.

Morse Well "Leak" 
News of the recent "problem" did not reach the media's attention until Monday, May 21, 2012.    DEP has sampled four private wells in the area and a Chesapeake consultant is screening all private wells within a 2,500 foot radius of the Morse pad.

Two homes were found to have methane at their private drinking water wellheads and were vented.  As of May 24, 2012, the DEP now says three homes are affected

There are reports of bubbling in the nearby stream leading to Towanda Creek, and bubbling in a surrounding wetland area.   Unconfirmed rumors have been circulating of dead fish and frogs and hissing sounds coming from a hillside.

"NATURALLY" Occurring
A spokesperson from the Pennsylvania D.E.P. has said they can't officially determine the cause of the contamination.
"The investigation is continuing and no determination has been made as to the source or sources of the methane," said Daniel Spadoni.
News media is reporting the cause as "methane gas can migrate underground when a gas well hits a pocket of naturally occurring methane gas causing the methane to seep into the soil." 

According to MarcellusGas. org: Violations per Gas Company for Leroy Township, Bradford County, PA
20 : the total number of violations in Leroy Township to date.
2 : the number of Gas Companies with violations in Leroy Township to date.
CHESAPEAKE has the highest number of violations in Leroy Township to date (17)

See Susquehanna River Sentinel for photos and more on the ground updates.

3,300 violations in four years
In February, 2012, the Times Tribune reported: Drillers cited for 3,300 violations in four years

Penn Environment found that Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. had the most violations with 412, including 161 in 2011 - the most violations by a Marcellus Shale driller last year.

Chesapeake Appalachia, Chief Oil and Gas, and Talisman Energy USA all had more than 300 violations during the four-year study period, although Talisman cut its violations from 154 in 2010 to just 30 in 2011, according to the report.

Of drillers with more than 10 Marcellus wells in the state, XTO Energy, an ExxonMobil subsidiary, had the highest rate of violations, with an average of three violations for every well it drilled.

Ms. Staaf said the study "demonstrates that Marcellus Shale gas drilling companies are either unable or unwilling to comply with basic environmental laws that have been put in place to protect the health and environment of Pennsylvanians."

NOT just Dimock
Recently,  J. Lisak of Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air (PACWA) compiled a list of more than 200 cases which were reported by the media of people and animals who have been sicken and even died from exposure to air and water contamination associated with gas field facilities.

More than half of those on the list are Pennsylvania residents.  The List of the Harmed includes locations such as Carmichel, Hickory, Tioga County, Washington County, Lake Lynn, Clearville, Bedford County, Bradford County and Butler County to name a few.

The natural gas industry continues to maintain this is all naturally occurring contamination or the contamination was there BEFORE any natural gas industrial development happened and reports of illnesses, contamination etc are "anecdotal" .

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