|The French Azilum United Methodist Church|
Located on the Susquehanna River, French Azilum, Bradford County, PA
Photo credit: Carol Manuel
Tue, 09/07/2010 - 16:02
The Department of Environmental Protection is continuing to investigate the source of stray methane gas detected in the Susquehanna River and at six private water wells in Wilmont Township, Bradford County, late last week. "Chesapeake Energy has been working at the direction of DEP to determine the source or
sources of the stray gas," said DEP Secretary John Hanger.
"Gas migration is a serious, potentially dangerous problem. Chesapeake must stop the gas from migrating."Chesapeake has six Marcellus Shale gas wells located on the Welles well pads one three and four, located two to three miles northwest of the Susquehanna River. These wells are believed to be the source of stray gas that was detected on August 4 at a residence located on Paradise Road in Terry Township.
DEP issued a notice of violation to Chesapeake and required it to provide and implement a plan to remediate. Progress has been made, but, to date, this violation has not yet been fully resolved. While neither DEP nor Chesapeake have been able to conclusively show that the Welles wells are the source, DEP believes that they are the most likely source.
The wells were drilled between Dec. 2009 and March of this year; however the wells have not been fractured or "fracked" and are not producing Marcellus gas. For that reason, DEP believes that any stray gas migrating from these wells is not from the Marcellus Shale formation, but from a more shallow rock formation.
Chesapeake has screened 26 residences within a one-half mile radius of the river and found six water wells to have elevated levels of methane. Chesapeake monitored each of the houses served by an impacted water well and found no indication of methane gas in the homes.
On September 3, high levels of methane were detected in the crawl space under a seasonal residence. Emergency responders were contacted to ventilate below the home and gas and electric utilities were shut off to eliminate any potential for ignition.Chesapeake has equipped water wells with high levels of methane with ventilation systems and installed five methane monitors in the homes associated with the impacted wells. Additionally, Chesapeake has provided potable water to the effected residents. No residents have been evacuated from their homes.
DEP first received information about water bubbles in the Susquehanna River late on September 2, with additional reports received the next morning of bubbling in two private drinking water wells nearby. In response, DEP sent two teams of inspectors to investigate the source of stray methane gas on September 3.
One team of DEP inspectors went to the Susquehanna River near to Sugar Run where bubbling had been reported. DEP collected samples of the gas for isotopic analysis which is used to identify the source. Analysis of the lab results will be complete within 2 weeks.
Biogenic methane gas is formed at shallow depths from the natural organic decomposition of waste, such as one would find in swamp gas. Thermogenic methane gas is produced in deeper geologic formations and is the gas typically developed for economic purposes.
Both DEP and Chesapeake have taken gas samples from the water well heads and the natural gas wells. The results will help to determine if the source of the stray gas detected at the river and in the water wells is the Welles wells.
Anyone who notices unusual bubbling in surface or well water should notify DEP immediately by calling 570-327-3636.
Also click here to read the Chesapeake Bay Foundation blog.