PA Geologist, Not Associated With Industry, Explains Where PA Well Contamination Comes From

From Energy in Depth comes an interesting post about Brian Oram, a Licensed Professional Geologist, who gave a presentation about the reality of existing water contamination in Pennsylvania which has nothing to do with gas drilling.  Perhaps the most noteworthy thing about Mr. Oram is that he is not associated with the oil and gas industry.  Here is a video and some of what he had to say:
Who’s Really at Fault
Again, its very easy to blame an industry and “poorly constructed” gas wells but, what about poorly constructed water wells?  Pennsylvania has no standard for water well construction, meaning anyone can go drill a hole to receive water and call it a well.  Some of the water wells in the area are decades old.  These water wells have the potential to fail, just like gas wells.   For example, near Nicole’s property wells have to be vented for methane and sulfur and have been for years prior to any natural gas development. These issues are likely due to placement and poor water well construction.
Many private wells are poorly constructed. Water wells are drilled too deep, I have seen some drilled as deep as 900 feet.  Saline and brine solutions are naturally occurring and found around 300 feet. So when you drill to 900 feet you go through that saline and brine essentially contaminating your well instantly.
Even the placement of wells can influence the pollutants found in the water.  People shouldn’t just care about the natural gas industry.  They need to ask things like, “was there an old gas station nearby,” “is there an old dump close,” or “has the well ever been vented for methane or sulfur.”  When Cabot was seismic testing in Susquehanna County they found methane at only 20 feet!  There are many other elements that can affect water quality besides natural gas development.  Instead of taking a step back and looking at facts, the gas industry is instead scapegoated based on emotion and fear.
I have baseline tested areas with no gas development at all. 49% of the people had water you couldn’t drink because of bacteria. 20% of these had e-coli and arsenic above the drinking water limit. We are also finding elevated levels of barium. Again this is in an area of no natural gas development.
These naturally occurring problems are due to poor water well casing and construction. Another issue is the type of pipe used in the constructions process.  Many people with black coil pipe down their wells are experiencing elevated levels of contamination.  According to Oram, this contamination is due to the black plastic and how it releases plasticizers.  These issues were not known at the time of water well construction.
Addressing the Problems
Oram is very clear in his presentations there is potential for surface spills or migration of methane due to structural issues with natural gas well casings or disturbance from the drilling process.  However, he also acknowledges the strides being made and technological advances to mitigate these risks.

Read the rest of the article here.

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