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Monday, January 14, 2013

Portage County Family Spotlighted on Today Show Because of Flaming Tap Water

The Today show aired a report on the Kline family of Portage County, who have methane in their water.  The report says Mrs. Kline discovered the methane when she lit a candle near her sink and a fireball shot to the ceiling of their house.  The report from Today clearly attempts to point the finger at a gas well that was recently drilled 1,800 feet from the Kline water well.


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There is no disputing that the methane level in the water jumped from 9.48 ppm during baseline testing by Mountaineer Keystone Oil and Gas in August to 22 ppm in December testing by the ODNR.  28 ppm is considered hazardous.  However, a report from WKYC Channel 3 News was a little more balanced than the report from Today, highlighting the fact that there is no conclusive evidence that drilling is the culprit.



Energy in Depth Ohio was quick to chime in as well, pointing out not only historical evidence that methane is commonly found in Portage County water wells, but also that fluctuations in methane and chloride are common in the area.
But perhaps the most important detail concerning the Klines’ water well is this: According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Kline water well was actually drilled through the existing water aquifer and into a rock formation below called the “hard blue shale.” According to the statement that ODNR submitted to Today: “The water well in question was found to be drilled into shale, which is known to contain methane and is naturally occurring.”
In other words: natural gas was found in a water well that was drilled into a shale formation that contains natural gas.
Here’s why that’s relevant: According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the relatively shallow shale rocks that underlie Portage Co. have long been known to house some pretty low-quality drinking water. In a report filed by USGS in 1966 – 56 years ago, mind you – the agency found that:
“the shale units in Portage County generally have not been used as a source of water because of either thepoor quality of the water or its insufficient quantity.”
The fact that the Klines’ water well was drilled into one of those shales explains a lot about the composition and quality of their water.
One of the other points the reporter made sure to highlight in the Today show piece was that methane levels discovered in water sampling tests from December 2012 (based on tests conducted by ODNR) were higher than what was detected in the baseline samples collected in August 2012. So even if there were methane in the water beforehand – and lots of it – what could explain the increase in concentration?
Here, a 2008 report that appeared in a prominent scientific journal examining how and why levels of methane can change in groundwater might prove useful. That report, entitled “Spike-Like Concentration Change of Methane,” observed that it’s common for methane levels in groundwater to increase or decrease over time, as methane concentrations are “controlled by the hydrostatic pressure gradient in the aquifer.” According to the study, the pressure gradient can change for a number of reasons — not only due to withdrawals from the well, but also from atmospheric conditions, such as changes in barometric pressure. Because of this, changes in temperature can cause methane concentrations in groundwater to fluctuate.
The baseline tests were taken in the summer, whereas ODNR’s tests were taken in the late fall/winter.
Read that entire article by clicking here.

Methane migration definitely sometimes happens when gas drilling takes place.  It is rare, and the pre-existing presence of methane in this particular case raises questions as to whether or not drilling has anything to do with the current level of methane in the Kline water well.  If drilling was to blame, then the family should certainly be compensated to rectify the situation.

If it wasn't, then it should be made clear so that this family doesn't become the latest poster child for the dangers of gas drilling despite the fact that they are not being affected by gas drilling (in the same way that the iconic flaming faucet from Gasland actually had nothing to do with gas drilling).

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