|A shale gas drilling operation in Frankln Township, Pa.|
Photo: James Pitarresi, PitarresiPhoto@gmail.com
Methane is again seeping into water wells in Susquehanna County, despite stronger regulations enacted by the state last year in an attempt to control the problem near shale gas operations.
DEP officials have recently collected a second round of samples from water wells of three homes in Franklin Township after initial testing showed elevated levels of methane, said Colleen Connolly, a spokeswoman for the DEP. Officials suspect that the pressurized methane could have passed from gas baring zones into the aquifer along imperfections in cement casings designed to seal off well bores.
Franklin is about 15 miles north of Dimock, Pa., a place that gained national attention after Norma Fiorintino’s water well exploded in January, 2009, triggering an investigation and lawsuit that have become emblematic of the controversy over shale gas development. The DEP Bureau of Oil and Gas Management has files on more than fifty other cases of methane migration dating from the beginning of 2004 to the time Fiorintino’s well exploded. All involved dangerous and sometime fatal accumulations of gas migrating from new or abandoned wells into enclosed spaces. According DEP files, methane migration has “caused or contributed to” at least six explosions that killed four people and injured three others over the course of the decade preceding full-scale Marcellus development.
Residents in Franklin Forks attended a Township meeting on Wednesday to explain problems that began affecting their wells after drilling began near their homes. One resident showed a video of pressurized gas hissing from her well. WPX Energy is drilling in the area, although the source of the problem has not been conclusively identified.
Click here for a video of the meeting.
The DEP updated cement casing requirements in February of 2011 to mandate a higher grade of cement, pressure testing, and more inspections, but problems have persisted. In May of 2011, The DEP fined driller Chesapeake Energy $1.1 million 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, contaminating 16 families’ drinking water beginning in 2010. It also paid $188,000 for a tank fire at a well site in Avella, Washington County.