ROARING BRANCH, Pa. - Natural gas drilling and its effects on water wells again was the topic at the Tioga County commissioners "on the road" meeting at the Union Township building in late July. It mainly focused on an incident of methane migration that happened in June.
Commissioner Erick Coolidge said that some two dozen residents packed the tiny township building, looking for answers to questions about why the incident at the Guindon 706 well pad June 22 on Ralston Hunting Club property, which caused a "geyser" of water containing methane to spew out of the ground, was not better handled by the gas industry.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is investigating.
The migration was found by Shell Appalachia to be the result of an "orphan gas well," or abandoned well bore.
"The well was plugged in the 1930s and that is what caused this explosion of water coming up," Coolidge said Wednesday.
"In July, we reached an access agreement with the Ralston Hunting Club," Kim Windon, Shell Appalachia's business communications manager, said in an email to the Sun-Gazette. "We built a new well pad near the abandoned 1930s well, Butters No. 1, and will plug and abandon, and properly seal, the well in line with today's standards."
Township resident Tom Cochran, who attended the meeting, said his concern was that "after the blowout up here, when they tested, they only tested for methane, and the residents were expecting a bit more thorough water test.
"We assumed we were going to have a baseline water test. They tested for methane, ethane and propane," he said of Shell Appalachia.
He said he owns land near the site.
At this point, he said, "we still don't know if our water was affected. We got the test results back and, as far as those three, we are fine," he said, referring to methane, ethane and propane.
Cochran said he and his neighbors hired Seawald Laboratories in Williamsport to test for other contaminants that might be found in the water such as solids, magnesium, iron and the water's pH level.
"Then you can see if you have a spike in a certain type of mineral or element," he said.
He also noted that another resident at the meeting complained about her animals rejecting the well water at her residence since the incident.
"We have farmers whose animals aren't drinking the water," he said.
Cochran said he has not seen any changes in the water at his property, but once they get the results, the neighbors will get back together and go through them and "a professor from Penn State said he would be interested in explaining the differences. So that's where we're at right now," he added
Coolidge said that Shell has been taking water samples every 12 hours.
"We have made significant progress in reducing subsurface gas pressure in the area," Windon said. "We have been flaring a portion of our production while we work to complete a new pipeline, which should be ready in early August. We have been able to reduce the flaring to just one site.
"We are still seeing some gas release in the creek, but we're pleased to see it has decreased," she added. "There are still areas of concern residents have and through the discussion, the community and commissioners resolved that further work needs to be done to give them peace of mind," Coolidge said.