More Gas “Plumes” Documented In Bradford County

Scott Detrow    StateImpact/NPR       September 10, 2012

Some of the con­se­quences of stray methane leak­ing from nat­ural gas wells are eas­ier to spot than oth­ers. Over­flow­ing water wells and bub­bling methane pud­dles are easy to doc­u­ment. But methane plumes are odor­less and invis­i­ble, so you need some sophis­ti­cated equip­ment to track it.

Equip­ment like the “portable laser-based methane mea­sure­ment sys­tem and com­bustible gas indi­ca­tor” that Gas Safety


Ted Franklin shows StateIm­pact PA the water fil­tra­tion sys­tem Chesa­peake has installed behind his home

Incorporated’s Bob Ack­ley used to doc­u­ment methane plumes near Leroy Town­ship, Brad­ford County, on July 25.

Ack­ley was in Brad­ford County to track the methane migra­tion prob­lems StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia has been report­ing on for sev­eral months. On May 19th, nat­ural gas began seep­ing out of Chesa­peake Energy’s Morse well. The gas has been bub­bling into a nearby stream, and onto at least two fam­i­lies’ prop­erty, ever since. Click on the arti­cles in the adjoin­ing box for details on how the leak hap­pened, and how it’s affected the peo­ple who live nearby.

When Ack­ley brought his equip­ment to Leroy Town­ship on July 25, he found two plumes of gas in the air – one stretch­ing more than 10 miles. He also doc­u­mented pock­ets of gas under the ground, and doc­u­mented ele­vated methane lev­els in one family’s home.

Accord­ing to the report – and it’s impor­tant to remem­ber this was funded by an envi­ron­men­tal group, and not an offi­cial state inves­ti­ga­tion – “the data and obser­va­tions clearly indi­cate nat­ural gas has per­vaded an exten­sive sub­sur­face area and …sur­face emis­sions and ground water methane con­t­a­m­i­na­tion prob­lems are likely to con­tinue for unfore­see­able times.” Read Ackley’s full report at the bot­tom of this post.

The Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion sus­pects gas began leak­ing from a Chesa­peake Gas well when pres­sure bub­bled up dur­ing a repair job aimed at fix­ing a faulty piece of equip­ment within the well. State inspec­tors doc­u­mented ele­vated methane lev­els in two fam­i­lies’ water sup­plies, and deter­mined that drilling was to blame. A DEP spokesman tells StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia that “the vol­ume of gas com­ing out of the ground has been reduced sub­stan­tially,” though when StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia vis­ited Leroy Town­ship in late August, about a month after Ack­ley con­ducted his tests, we found methane bub­bling out of the ground and Towanda Creek.

In an email state­ment, DEP spokesman Kevin Sun­day writes, “[DEP has] an active inves­ti­ga­tion under­way to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion as it unfolds. Our inves­ti­ga­tion, as any of our inves­ti­ga­tions into methane migra­tion inci­dents are, is thor­ough and includes reg­u­lar and on-going sam­pling and analy­sis.” Read por­tions of the let­ter the depart­ment sent to Leroy Town­ship res­i­dents here, and the ear­lier pub­lic let­ter from Sec­re­tary Krancer to the Clean Air Coun­cil, which out­lined the state’s ini­tial find­ings, here.

Chesa­peake has called the issue an “iso­lated inci­dent,” and says it has “iden­ti­fied and cor­rected” the prob­lems that led to the stray gas.

Gas Safety Incor­po­rated (GSI) has been inves­ti­gat­ing gas leaks since 2006. Pub­lic Radio International’s Liv­ing On Earth pro­filed the com­pany ear­lier this year, as it hunted for stray gas in Boston.

Read the full GSI report here.

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