DEP asks driller to help remedy methane spike

BY LAURA LEGERE

Times-Shamrock Writer

The Department of Environmental Protection has asked a natural gas drilling company to step in and help three Franklin Twp. families whose well water contains high levels of methane.

State environmental regulators have not determined the source of the gas and are not saying WPX Energy is responsible for the methane, DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said. But in a letter to the driller Friday, regulators asked that WPX help address the problem.

“They can offer to put in (methane) mitigation systems. They can offer to buy bottled water. We did ask them to vent at least one well,” Connolly said.

“We’re looking at a situation where some temporary fixes need to be put in, and we’re putting the ball in WPX’s court.”

The department began investigating elevated methane in the water wells in December when residents along Route 29 in the hamlet of Franklin Forks noticed discolored water and intermittent eruptions of gas and water from their well.

WPX has been cited by the DEP for flaws in the steel and cement barriers in two of its Marcellus Shale wells closest to Franklin Forks, but the company has said those well casings were properly installed and cemented.

WPX spokeswoman Susan Oliver said that the company received the message from DEP late Friday and reached out to the department Monday to set up a meeting this week.

“WPX Energy has been a good neighbor to theEndlessMountainarea,” she said, adding that the company has spent more than $2 million on road repair, charitable giving and flood relief in the last year.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, has seeped into water supplies through faults or weaknesses in Marcellus Shale wells in other areas ofSusquehannaCountyand the region.

The department also is investigating a natural methane seep in nearbySaltSpringsState Parkas a possible cause of the well contamination.

Connolly said she did not have a copy of the letter to WPX to release on Monday.

Tammy Manning, whose family of seven lives in one of the affected homes, said the amount of methane dissolved in her well water rose from 38.9 milligrams per liter during a DEP test in December to 58.4 milligrams per liter during a test this month.

A flammable gas, methane can pose a fire or explosion risk when it escapes from water and becomes trapped in enclosed spaces.

The atmosphere in the open gap in Manning’s water well was 82 percent methane during a recent DEP test, she said – too rich to pose an explosion risk, she was told.

Methane is generally explosive at a concentration of between 5 and 15 percent in air.

As of Monday afternoon, her well was still not vented.