PA DEP Asks WPX to Help Families with Water/Methane Issues

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent a letter last Friday to WPX Energy (spin-off from Williams) asking them to help three families who live near shale wells being drilled by WPX in Franklin Township (Susquehanna County,  PA). The families’ water wells contain high levels of methane.

Last December, the DEP started investigating when several families complained of water problems. The DEP found that WPX had not properly cased several wells in the area, something that WPX disputes. The DEP has not yet made an official determination that WPX is at fault for the water wells containing high levels of methane—but they are asking WPX to help out.

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," Ms. 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.

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.*

*The Scranton Times Tribune (Mar 19, 2012) – DEP asks gas driller to help remedy Franklin Twp. methane spike