PA DEP Advises Venting Water Wells in Dimock Twp, But Source of Gas Still Unknown

Four water wells in Dimock Township, PA have been found to have high levels of natural gas, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is advising area home owners to vent their water wells.

Following an explosion Jan. 1 that shattered an 8-foot cement well cover, four wells with unacceptable levels of natural gas have been taken off-line in the township.

In the past few days, letters and fact sheets were sent to about 20 homeowners south of Montrose, Pa., alerting them to the dangers of gas trapped in wells and encouraging them to vent them, said Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Mark Carmon.

Meanwhile, DEP officials are analyzing tests from about 20 homes in the area to determine whether the gas found in the wells is from natural ground conditions or a byproduct of drilling operations by Cabot Oil & Gas. The Houston-based energy company is drilling dozens of wells more than a mile deep to tap the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.

The question is not so much as whether or not there are high levels of natural gas seeping into some area wells so much as why, and from what source is it coming? Terry Engelder, a Penn State University geoscientist says this:

“The rock formations in and around the area carry a lot of fractures with them,” he said. “There is a slim possibility that if a company like Cabot came along, man-made fractures in the Marcellus could connect up with other fractures in more shallow units.”

A more likely scenario, he said, is gas from natural sources has been moving through shallow soils for some time, and residents are now just beginning to notice.

Press & Sun-Bulletin: Natural gas in water wells has N.Y. officials on alert – Pennsylvania homeowners notified of dangers