Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mundy Boback 2 Legislators proposing legilsation for public water protection from Marcellus Shale drilling

Rep. Karen Boback (R-Columbia/Luzerne/Wyoming) announced her intent to introduce legislation that will provide additional protections for public drinking water supplies, as the natural gas drilling industry continues to grow in Pennsylvania.

“Natural gas drilling has the potential to be the most promising economic boon for our Commonwealth, but we have to proceed with caution and make sure we are putting the health and safety of our citizens first,” said Boback. “I am introducing this legislation to put additional safeguards in place for the drinking water sources we all share and on which we rely. As we have seen from the catastrophe in the Gulf, once an accident occurs, it is difficult to restore our natural resources. I believe the best approach is to proceed with caution.”
Boback’s legislation would require companies seeking drilling permits in close proximity to public drinking water sources to provide the following information to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP):

Names of all surface landowners with water supplies within a mile of a proposed well – said landowners will also be notified of proposed drilling.
An emergency contingency plan.
An analysis of the travel time of a release to the nearest waterway.
The zone of influence on groundwater.

In addition, it would require DEP to notify all public water drinking operators within the watershed that a well permit has been submitted and to publish a notice in the PA Bulletin if it believes a proposed well site will have the potential to affect a public water supply. Finally, it would include a prohibition on horizontal drilling beneath any public drinking water source and would increase the buffer between any drill site and public drinking water sources.

“If an accident were to occur that would taint public water supplies, it would have a devastating effect on the lives and health of area residents and on the community itself,” said Boback. “My legislation is another precaution to protect those I serve.”
Boback noted that this legislation will be part of a package of bills aimed at increasing the safety of Pennsylvania’s waterways.

Rep. Karen Boback
117th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(570) 477-3752
(717) 787-1117
Contact: Nicole Wamsley
(717) 783-8063
Member Site:
Caucus Site:

My Comments
A Few Comments: On your proposed legislation

1. I like that surface landowners are notified- I am assuming this notification is in writing and it should include a map.

2. The contingency plan should include emergency response for spills etc and it would be advisable to develop a watershed based program – at a minimum signs in the watershed identifying key wellhead protection zones for public water wells and watershed boundaries for surface reservoirs- this program has been available to public water sources and they really have not done much. If possible the surface reservoirs should also be signed with emergency response numbers to facilitate a spill from anyone - brine tank, home heating fuel, gasoline, etc.

How about emergency management for gasoline stations????? Again – these systems may be have doubled walled tanks that contain thousands of gallons of toxic, hazardous, and flammable material that in some cases  area installed directly in a water table for shallow aquifer.

Just so you know 1 gallon of gasoline contaminates about 1 million gallons of water. I know the local target is Natural Gas – but if we are going to put in place regulations lets not forget some of the other more significant hazards we have already.
3. Regarding the time of travel to a waterway there is guidance in the sourcewater protection manuals – typically this is a time of travel of 5 hours to the point of intake. Something different is needed – but this should not be limited to natural gas drilling – this should also apply to gasoline stations, etc.   Also - Please do not convert the Sourcewater Protection Guidance Manual into a regulation.

4. Zone of influence – to be honest – most wellhead protection zones – Zone 1 for public wells is about 100 feet not much more – because the public well owner has to control the surface use either directly or by some conservation easement.   In this area the Zone 1 does not normally extend to 400 feet.

I do not believe that horizontal drilling at 5000+feet below a well is an issue for these sources, but it is a good idea to stay away and this activity should not be in the Wellhead Protection Zone. If we can not have stormwater recharge in a wellhead protection zone - we should not have drilling activities.

The more important concern is not the distance from the source- but the construction of the vertical wellbore for the natural gas well – We need multiple strings of pipe that provide multiple barriers between the various water bearing zones. inspections and certifications on the cement, etc.  In addition, it may not be a bad idea to have monitoring or observations well surrounding a well pad or gasoline station/or other storage type facility - at least one upgradient and two downgradient wells.

5. Also – where is the real-time monitoring in the headwaters????

6. Better and larger isolation distances from streams and waterways for the drilling pad location would be advisable – I think the new stream buffers go a long way, but the current isolation distances in the regulations are not adequate, but some of this could be addressed via engineering controls at the site.

7. How about some private well construction standards ? Lets not forget – that once a private well is contaminated from any activity it will facilitate the contamination of the rest of the system. We are forgetting that we have a lot of poorly constructed private wells that have created places in the regional geology where contaminants can “leak” into the aquifer.

8. How about legislation that requires public water suppliers to own and protect watershed land –rather than selling it off as in the case for all our surface reservoirs.

Just my thoughts.
Hope you Read
Brian Oram, Professional Geologist
Dallas Resident

PS: I am working on the Local Alternative and Renewable Energy Expo in Dallas
June 26 – 27, 2010
Luzerne County Fairgrounds

This sending in advance to posting my comments on my blog

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