Bradford County water wells tested for methane
May. 21, 2012
Pa. officials, Chesapeake try to determine cause of gas migration
Pennsylvania officials and Chesapeake Energy are investigating a possible methane gas migration issue in Leroy Township in Bradford County.
The Department of Environmental Protection’s Oil and Gas Program received the initial report on Saturday evening, said Daniel Spadoni, the agency’s community relations coordinator.
Methane was detected in the headspace of two private drinking water wells. Both wells have been vented, DEP says. There have also been reports of gas bubbling documented in nearby wetlands.
Chesapeake’s Morse well pad — which contains two wells — is about one-half mile from the affected private wells. 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.
Brian Grove, Chesapeake’s senior director of corporate development, said the company was alerted Saturday to a complaint regarding residential water supplies and nearby surface water. The company, Grove said, is “working cooperatively with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to investigate the situation.”
More information will be released as the investigation proceeds, the company said.
Methane migration, when methane gas leaks into water wells, happens when a gas well hits a pocket of naturally occurring methane gas in the earth, allowing the methane to seep into the soil. In the cases where it can be proved the contamination has been caused by natural gas drilling, gas companies can be made responsible for any remediation methods — installing new water wells, providing bottled fresh water or installing equipment to vent the methane.
Although the DEP strengthened its drilling regulations in February 2011 by mandating a higher grade of cement be used in the well casings, pressure testing the wells and more inspections, the methane migration problem has persisted.
In May 2011, DEP fined Chesapeake Energy for a series of water contamination incidents and a well-site fire that injured three workers. The company agreed to pay $900,000 for allowing methane to migrate up faulty wells in Bradford County and contaminate 16 families’ drinking water beginning in 2010.
In January, DEP sent a violation notice to Chief Oil & Gas for three gas wells in Wyoming County’s Nicholson Township saying there is 100-percent combustible gas between the cemented steel casings, which the agency uses as a sign of flaws in construction of the well. The investigation began after a nearby resident complained of high methane levels in well water supplies.
Methane levels above 28 milligrams per liter are a cause for concern because at that point, water can no longer hold the gas and it begins to escape to the air.
Meanwhile, DEP’s Spadoni said, and no methane has been detected inside any of the homes near the Morse well pad.
One of the wells being tested provides drinking water for a niece of Patricia Klotz, of Rome, Pa. Her niece lives near Rockwell Road in Leroy Township, and Klotz said her niece’s water is being tested every 12 hours and that the testing has been going on for a couple of days.
“But she and her neighbors are afraid to say anything, for fear of repercussions,” Klotz said.
The investigation is continuing and no determination has been made as to the source or sources of the methane, DEP says.