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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Geologist Says Gas Well Pollution Incidents Are Few In Pennsylvania

Water Source Protection: Stakes Are High, Long-Term

ngtfmarkstephens“We need to take water source protection seriously and proactively,” a state geologist declared at Tuesday’s meeting of the Potter County Natural Gas Task Force. “If we wait and respond after contamination has occurred, it can take longer than our great-grandchildren’s lifetime to make things right.”

Mark Stephens, licensed professional geologist with the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Watershed Management Program, cited oil and gas drilling as just one of many potential causes of water contamination. He called on communities to protect their drinking water sources. “Can a gas well be a source of contamination? Yes, it’s possible, and it has happened,” Stephens said. “However, with about 120,000 wells having been drilled in the state, we have had very few incidents.”

There are now more than 25 energy companies drilling in Pennsylvania, he said, and they are required to meet state regulations on well construction/casing developed to protect water sources. Companies conduct detailed studies of a well site’s geology to calculate where they should drill and how the casing should be configured. Stephens observed that, with a distance of 7,000 or more feet from the surface to the Marcellus Shale being hydrofractured, there is a margin of error which can potentially result in deep water containing salt and other natural elements migrating to drinking water sources much closer to the surface.

Stephens complimented Potter County for the establishment of seven source water protection groups covering supplies for Coudersport, Roulette, Austin, Genesee, Shinglehouse, Ulysses and the Northern Tier Children’s Home near Harrison Valley. These volunteer organizations, formed in 2000, have identified the sources of public water supplies and they encourage property owners to adopt practices that protect these supplies.

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