Brockway residents concerned over drilling impact on water supply
Saturday, February 25, 2012
BROCKWAY - While many residents are concerned about future contamination of Brockway's water supply, the Brockway Borough Municipal Authority's attorney, Bob Ging, says one of the water wells is already polluted.
"We found that since the No. 6 well of Flatirons was drilled, we've had a fivefold increase in turbidity in the water that's coming out of Well No. 5," Ging said.
A Marcellus well was drilled on Pad No. 6 in February 2011.
During the drilling process, Flatirons pierced the freshwater aquifer, which interrupted the water flow of the authority's Well No. 5, an artesian well, for 29 hours.
That caused about 450,000 gallons of water to flow back up the wellbore. The water was captured by Flatirons, kept in tanks, filtered and taken to water impoundment. The authority was reimbursed by the company for all the flowback water.
Since then, the authority hired a hydrogeologist to review the increase in turbidity.
He concluded that the increase in turbidity is something that is frequently associated with gas well drilling and there are no other activities on the watershed that could have caused it, Ging said.
DEP Director of the Bureau of Oil and Gas Management Scott Perry said it appears the well pad development is what caused the turbidity.
Perry said he is unsure if the gas well being proposed or the well drilled previously has a causal relationship to the turbidity.
Perry said the department will take another look at it.
Ging said pre-drilling samples were taken in January 2011. Between then and April 2011, the turbidity in the aquifer increased.
Flatirons Managing Director Jeff Jones said Flatirons started to look into the turbidity issue as soon as it got the letter from Ging.
In talking to experts, Jones said he was told that as the well free flows from a pipe into the reservoir. If that pipe is bumped when the water sample is being taken, the turbidity can be increased.
"Our crew recognized that as an issue and put a tap point in that line so as not to have to disturb the pipe when taking the sample," BBMA President Mike Arnold said.
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Other residents at Wednesday's public meeting had concerns of losing their water supply altogether.
Brockway Area Clean Water Alliance member Bruce Miller asked what the DEP would require Flatirons to do in the event Brockway's water supply is contaminated.
"There's no requirement that a water supply replacement plan be developed, but the law is absolutely clear that if there is a contamination or diminution it must be restored or replaced," Perry said.
One resident asked if the water being placed into the system in the event of a contamination would be of the same quality of the water that was ruined.
Flatirons Engineering Manager Larry Moore said in the event of contamination the water will come from St. Marys Water Authority.
Mike Brock of St. Marys asked if there is an agreement with the authority to bring unlimited amounts of water from St. Marys to Brockway. Brock's understanding is that the authority was only going to sell overflow water to Flatirons if it is needed.
"We do have an agreement for 750,000 gallons of potable water - raw or potable," Moore said.
Moore added that there is a state-approved permit for the water transfer if it is needed and Flatirons has the trucks to move it.
Brock asked if the water replacement plan and the ability of carrying it out could be proved by Flatirons.
Moore said the DEP doesn't require the plan so he didn't think the department would be interested in the company filing it with DEP.
"DEP doesn't have any interest in making sure the people of Brockway have clean water, is that what you're saying?" Brock asked.
A surface use agreement was negotiated with Brockway in July 2010 and an addendum was added to the agreement in January 2011.
"According to Pennsylvania law we were under no obligation to do that, but we did because we felt like it was in everybody's best interest to come to an agreement on how we we're going to access the property, how we're going to compensate Brockway for surface damages, so we did that," Moore said.
Another way Flatirons said it went above and beyond what was required was the installation of an emergency water connection at the Rattlesnake water facility. The BBMA asked for the connection in the event of water contamination as a result of drilling. The connection cost Flatirons $41,000.
"In our experience, this is something we've never experienced (contamination)," Moore said. "It is not required by the surface use agreement and it is not required by the DEP."
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Reported by Katie Weidenboerner, Tri-County Sunday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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