Let's say you turn your water on at your kitchen sink and the water spits out. You happen to mention this to a local well driller who suggests you try lighting your water to see if it will ignite. You follow his suggestion and discover that, yes, your tap water lights up. You notice that your water fizzles "like Alka Seltzer" when you fill a plastic bottle. This happened to a resident of Granville Summit, PA, last December (2009). Shana Spencer said she was shocked to see a flame shoot out of her tap water after she took a match to it. She says she will never drink her well water again. Also she says her home has depreciated in value now that methane has been found in her water.
Talisman Energy, formerly Fortuna, has responded to Mrs. Spencer and her husband Chad. They are denying that there is any cause and effect relationship between its drilling operations 2400 feet from the Spencers' home and the appearance of methane in the Spencers' water. However, the company is providing gallon jugs of bottled water and several 2 and a half gallon jugs. They are also planning to dig up the Spencers' well, extend it above ground, and install a vent to try to resolve the problem.
Dan Spadoni, community relations coordinator with the PA DEP said:
The danger of methane in water is that it can ignite, causing a fire or an explosion.Is this an acceptable risk? What does a homeowner do in a case like this? Just carry on with life as usual, knowing that an explosion or fire could occur in her home?
The Spencers' water was tested December 16, 2008, at their request. At that time there was methane, measuring 67.4 per million of methane in the water. February 1st, according to the report in the Towanda Daily Review (Eric Hrin, staff writer), the level of methane was 50 parts per million. Another test, taken March 6th, is still in process. An interesting fact is that Mrs. Spencer claims she did not get the results of the 2008 test until January 25, 2010, 13 months after the test was done. In addition, a Talisman spokesman, Mark Scheuerman, who had previously said that the December 2008 testing was done prior to any drilling activity, has since admitted that the test on Spencer's well water was done 3-4 weeks after drilling activities had begun in the area. All of this shows how difficult it is to get at the truth in situations like this. Home owners are almost at the mercy of the gas companies when trying to verify dates, what was done and when, etc.
The DEP sent letters to residents in the Granville Summit area February 23rd, advising them to equip their water wells "with working vents to vent out gases like methane and help them from being concentrated in an area where, if ignited, would be a threat to life or property."
Would you be okay with getting a letter like this? Wouldn't you become anxious that, even if you took these precautions, perhaps not all your neighbors would, thus placing you in jeopardy?
To read another account of similar problems in Leroy in southern Bradford County, go to this article published March 11, 2010 in the Morning Times (Sayre, PA). Well worth checking out!
For a map showing Granville Summit in Bradford County, click here.