Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Personal Testimony: Seismic Testing


Here is a personal story told by a member of a family from French Azilum, PA, which tells of her dismay about seismic testing on her family property, lovingly referred to as "Camp."

"Permission was given by a family member last November for Geokinetics to do seismic testing on Camp property. The family received $5 per acre. These tests are not connected with any gas company. They are done by an independent company which hopes to cash in big time on the gas drilling frenzy, which undoubtedly they are. The testing, in which dynamite is buried 20 feet down and then detonated, is all set to begin on our property in the next two weeks or so. Workers have been all over our property marking with ribbons, orange, pink, blue, and white. Big tire vehicles have trampled down vegetation and left big tire tracks in the mud on our path to the river.
It gave me a sick feeling to walk down that beautiful path and see the evidence of newcomers who do not know they walk on sacred land.
They do not know the animals and the flowers and trees that live there and will soon be traumatized by earth-shattering blasts. Here is a little information that we probably should have found out about before we agreed to have this done. Also, if we are not thinking about leasing, WHY DO WE NEED TO HAVE TESTING DONE?" [Read my comments at the end of this post.]

Seismic Exploration—Issues and Impacts
• Survey stakes for mapping out the exploration area should be wooden, and not wire pin flags, because farming activities like making silage or hay can shred the wire flags. The resultant metal bits can kill livestock that eat the feed. Also, all stakes and markers should be removed after exploration is completed, because livestock and wildlife can die from eating ribbons or flags.

• Seismic lines will destroy vegetation and may cause erosion, which could lead to sediment entering surface waters.

• 3-D tests tend to cause greater surface disturbance and companies use your land for longer periods of time than with two-dimensional surveys.

• If dynamite is used during exploration, the "shot" holes may intercept the water table, and water may begin to flow or seep to the surface. These flowing holes have caused problems for some landowners, e.g., by making the land so wet that farmers were unable to cut hay. These holes need to be plugged from bottom to top. Ensure that the company properly plugs and abandons these holes.

• Seismic work crews may generate different types of waste (plastic, paper, containers, fuel leaks/spills, food and human wastes).

Seismic Exploration—Tips for Landowners
• Prior to any exploration, it is advisable to ask the company to show you, on a map and on an aerial photograph of your property, where they intend to conduct their seismic operations. [WAS THIS DONE?]To minimize damage, try to ensure that work is conducted as far away from surface waters as possible. Ask companies to avoid steep slopes, as this could lead to erosion. As well, request that the company avoid any areas of ecological sensitivity or importance to your use of your land. [WHAT ABOUT WILD FLOWERS ON OUR PATH?]

• Landowners may want to negotiate more payment and negotiate stronger surface-damage provisions if they consent to 3-D seismic tests, due to a greater degree of surface disturbance caused by this type of testing.

• It is advisable to get water wells tested before and after seismic testing, because seismic shot holes can provide a path for surface contaminants to come into direct contact with groundwater. The seismic explosions may also create pathways for water to flow to the surface, which could decrease pressure in the reservoir and affect water quantity in water wells. You can request that the company pay for these water quality and quantity tests.

• After the company leaves, do some ground-truthing: ensure that holes have been properly filled; that no flags, pins or trash are left around to endanger livestock or wildlife; and that water is not flowing into or from any holes. [WILL THIS BE DONE?]

• Review the state regulations governing exploration (contact state agencies to obtain copies of any regulations pertaining to exploration). There will likely be a number of things that the company is required by law to do (e.g., plugging of seismic holes; notification of exploration; posting a bond to cover potential surface damages, etc.). The more you know, the more you can ensure that the company is acting responsibly. For example, if notification is required before a company can enter your property, you may want to use the opportunity to make some requests of the company, e.g., negotiate a surface damage agreement, or right-of-way (access) agreement.

It should be stressed that geophysical techniques and remote sensing cannot identify oil or gas accumulations directly; they can only indicate the potential for reserves. The presence of oil and gas can only be confirmed by actual drilling. So, if the preliminary tests indicate a high likelihood of oil and gas, the company may decide to drill an exploratory well.

THERE HAS DEFINITELY BEEN SURFACE DAMAGE ON OUR PROPERTY. WAS THAT ADDRESSED WITH GEOKINETICS? WERE THEY ASKED TO NOTIFY US WHEN THE TESTS WOULD BE DONE? I DO NOT BELIEVE SO. WERE WE AWARE OF WHAT SHOULD BE DONE BY THE COMPANY AFTER THE TESTS ARE COMPLETED? I DO NOT THINK SO. DID WE KNOW WHERE THE DYNAMITE WOULD BE BURIED? I DO NOT THINK SO. WAS THERE A COMPELLING REASON TO HAVE THIS DONE ON OUR PROPERTY IN THE FIRST PLACE? I DON'T THINK SO. DO I WISH OUR FAMILY REPRESENTATIVE HAD BEEN MORE RESPONSIBLE AND DONE RESEARCH BEFORE AGREEING TO THIS TESTING? YES!

MY HEARTFELT APOLOGY TO ALL THE CREATURES WHO LIVE ON OUR PROPERTY AND WHOSE HABITAT WILL BE BLASTED OR SHAKEN DURING THESE NEEDLESS TESTS.

DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY!

12 comments:

bettines said...

Well this is a sad state of affairs. I'm sure the "family member" who gave permission to have this done had NO CLUE what he was getting us into! It's too bad we have this information NOW when too late to "just say no"! Thanks for doing such a great job of "keeping us informed" peacegirl! Bettines

Bob said...

Thank you for your continuing efforts on this, C. Significant changes are needed, but our options are clearly fewer now that we have allowed a year or more to elapse without any constructive action. See you soon.
Bob

Smurfette said...

Thanks, C. I wrote a comment on yesterday's. L

SPLASHDOWN said...

this personal testimony is a specially moving post to read.
after so much research and effort to share news and information with family members, that would hopefully have led to wise and compassionate decision making for their camp, it is
sadly elegiac at the senseless finality of the imminent seismic testing about to maim the property.
perhaps one of the most alarming things about this story is that it demonstrates how seemingly impossible it is for humanity to unite, in terms of the big picture, for their common good.

SPLASHDOWN said...

p.s.
the photo holds the elegy so beautifully well.
those brightly colored potentially lethal ribbons hang draped in mourning for our collective lack of vision and environmental sanity.

look deep into this image, past the ribbons that act like curtains opening onto the promise and glory of Life Itself.

thanks, as ever, peacegirl, for the wise and eco-compassionate posts one can count on finding on this gentle blog.

Don Williams said...

Dear Splashdown person: You write beautifully, but my arm is tired reaching for my dictionary. ;->

This is a great blog..visit it almost daily.

Peacegirl said...

Don-
Thanks for stopping by often!

Peacegirl

Ruthe said...

That's sad. Though I have found this seismic company awhile ago when I was searching for some info on ground rolls. They provide testings while ensuring safety of the working environment. Their seismic micro technology are designed to give the best possible surveying and imaging. I think the more effective the equipment, the faster they'll get done and leave the area.

Charles C said...

I have read this so many times and have been moved each time...we recently had our own experience with Geokinetics:
I live in South Western Weld County (near Ft. Lupton) and I would like to tell you all of my personal experience with the gas company(s) working in our area. Our home and water well was damaged in the course of Seismic testing done in very close proximity to our home.
We have been researching and reaching out everywhere we can find for help or at least information on resources that may of be of use as we have discovered that all local and state agencies including multiple letters to the COGCC that not one has responded in any manner to our requests for information or assistance.
What happened to us is as follows:
Just before Christmas a company called Geokinetics (they always use unmarked vehicles and even the employees will do anything NOT to tell you who they work for) was in our area conducting unannounced Seismic testing within 100 feet home and well. Within a very short span of time (days) from this occurrence our water well collapsed and cracks appeared on the walls in our garage and one entire side of our home. We contacted our insurance company who of course immediately denied the claim as the damages they observed during their inspection they said were caused by the induced seismic activity and they told us this needs to be addressed by the Seismic Company.
Our next course of action was to contact Geokinetics who in turn sent 3 people to our home to photograph all of the cracks that have appeared inside of our home and after many attempts without response to either verbal and written requests for information or, in lieu of Geokinetics working on this issue we have asked at every conversation for the name of their insurer have been rebuffed to this query as well until we received a very short Email denying any responsibility and they have since refused access to view the data they refer to as the basis for this denial.
I am concerned about my home as far as what damage may have been done to the structure to cause the cracking and floor separations but more pressing is the fact that although we were able to get our well repaired and have water again we were told by the well company that this will be a temporary solution at best and we need to plan on having a new well placed in the future which will be very costly and (due to the available aquifers we will be forced to drill down to ) a serious downgrade in water quality since every deep well in this area reeks of sulfur.
I cannot express the issues and the sheer attitude we have had to try and overcome in dealing with these companies (from Anadarko) all the way down to Geokinetics and Urban. We were never informed this testing was going to take place at our very doorstep and now that they have caused all this damage to our home and water we are being ignored by these companies and quite frankly cannot find anyone including the gas commission to even reply or offer any type of assistance or advice.
My wife and I are losing everything we have worked a lifetime for since a home without water is worthless so we are faced with simply letting our home go into foreclosure in order to walk away from this disgrace that has been visited upon us.
To Date, the gas company to date still refuses any contact with their insurance and continue to deny responsibility although our security cameras clearly show them in the street next to our property and one of their employees trespassing to "check" their activity to be sure they were causing no harm as they told us when they were here to photograph and assess the damage.
I'll ask you a simple question...if I were to get in an accident with you would you allow me to refuse access to my insurance and then do my own investigation (and deny responsibility of course)? I think not.
Heed the last line on the post...DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY!

Peacegirl said...

Charles: I am so so sorry to hear about your dilemma. It just seems that no matter where we turn for help, the fracking-related companies such as Geokinetics, are well-versed in ways to deny any responsibility. Even our politicians do not come to our aid. It is a shattering feeling to realize that no one can help. Loss of good water and damage to the structure of your home are not small matters. They strike at the very core of your life and your family. Having strangers arrive within feet of your front door and start doing testing (while acting secretive) is an experience I don't think anyone can relate to unless it happens to you personally. You are left with major problems (water is the most important thing we have) and nothing but denials from those who caused the problem. This is the new life in Gasland.

When the seismic testing was done on our family property in French Azilum, Bradford County, PA, a hapless relative of mine signed the permission form without conferring to anybody else in the family. Then when I went there for a short visit, I found all the ribbons tied to trees and wires all around in preparation for the blasting. When I called Geokinetics, I asked to be called when the tests were to be done. Never heard a word. I also asked to see the results. The man said I wouldn't be able to decipher the report, that only trained people would be able to make any sense out of it. So I didn't insist. Now I wish I had insisted on seeing that report. I wasn't there when the test was done, but one of my cousins was, and she said it was really weird sitting on the porch and having total strangers emerge from our wooded path to the Susquehanna River, speaking no English, and just walking by and basically saying nothing. I would have been very upset. This place has always been a sacred place for our family. It is a remote area, mostly farms. What an invasion of privacy and of a feeling of safety! And so far, our water supply from a spring across the road has not been ruined. However, I have a distrust of our family members who have the water tested because they are not fully aware of the dangers. Our property is literally surrounded (within a radius of 10 miles) by gas wells. There is a frack water treatment facility right up the hill from our property also.

I think losing your good water is the worst that can happen because your property value is so impacted. I hope you can resolve this somehow. In the meantime, I appreciate your sharing your story. It is all we can do- speak up and speak out. There are many, many people who have experienced similar things and some who have not (yet), and we all support you and empathize 100%. Keep us imformed!

Charles C said...

Thanks Peacegirl...
We did get that report and what a joke! It was a complete falsehood...they went as far as showing the impact points far away from where they were filmed (we have surveillance cameras)and, (as usual) tried to make it look like only one truck was testing. In all my reading on this I hear the same tired things from these companies equating the force as the same as a garbage truck, semi, door slamming etc., they don't include the important part...this truck or door slam happens every few milliseconds for twenty to thirty seconds per Vibroseis truck. Whenever you do see these companies talking about this issue the words "unlikely" pop out along with rarely or never happened in my company. In short, it happens if conditions are right but it's better to deny it. The purpose of denial is one of simple economics for them, for every one (claim)they have to pay for there are no doubt scores out there that they didn't. please see our story here...
http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_22803371/seismic-surveying-rattles-colorado-homeowners
All that can be done is get the word out and stay very vocal...these companies depend on the lack of information playing in their favor and Geokinetics is one of the best/worst in that game it seems.

Charles C said...

A new news story just came out on our story:
http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-10855-on-shaky-ground.html

Thank you all for listening!