Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chesapeake Energy Cited by DEP For Methane Contamination in Bradford County, PA

[Footage from WNEP-TV, Scranton, PA] 
A few residents in Bradford County are dealing with methane gas in their water wells. Now, state investigators are looking into whether drilling for natural gas caused the problems near Towanda. Chesapeake Energy officials said this all started almost two weeks ago so much methane gas built up in a drinking water well that the lid blew off. The gas company is now investigating, along with state environmental crews, after the same gas was found in other wells at neighboring homes.

According to its website, Chesapeake Energy is one of the largest natural gas producers and the largest active driller of new gas wells in the country.

On Monday, Newswatch 16 found workers monitoring gas levels at a home along Brocktown Road in Monroe Township, near Towanda. It is one of three homes officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection believe has been affected by methane gas problems in drinking water wells. While Chesapeake Energy has not taken responsibility for the issues, the company has hired the inspectors to find the source of methane gas. Chesapeake has even provided the homeowners with drinking water and vents for their wells.

"Concerns me, my renters, they're safe," said property owner Paul Sites. "The people Chesapeake hired are doing a good job, but they're not telling us anything." Sites owns two of the rental properties affected. He points out that Chesapeake has merely drilled three natural gas wells nearby and has not started hydraulic fracturing. If that's the source of the methane gas, Sites is worried what could happen next. "They didn't frack it yet, so that's my major concern," he says. "Now they're drilling a methane bubble down. What happens when they frack it?"

Even though the problem is confined to three properties, people who live in this area want to be assured the gas in the water well issues are not a sign of things to come. "Just waiting for Chesapeake," says Sites. "Guess they're trying to take care of the problem, but they ain't telling us nothing. That's what's scary about it. As long as they take care of the problem, we're happy about it."

A spokesperson for the DEP says Chesapeake Energy has been sent a notice of violation. That means even though the source of the methane gas in Bradford County has not been officially determined, DEP is asking the company how it plans to fix any problems at its natural gas wells.
Credit: Jim Hamill, WNEP-TV, Scranton, PA

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