Friday, December 23, 2011

Educator Explains the Marcellus Shale Opportunity to Local High School Students

WILKES-BARRE, PA—December 27, 2011—Brian Oram, a professional geologist and soil scientist and founder of B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc., recently presented “The Marcellus Shale Factor” to a group of high school students from Honesdale, Wallenpaupack, and Western Wayne. The talk was well received and followed by a question and answer period.

Oram’s presentation was the first of a three-part series of talks on the issue for 40 high schoolers studying the Marcellus Shale, natural gas and energy. During the course, the students will learn about the geology of the Marcellus Shale, the natural gas extraction process currently in use in the area, the importance of monitoring groundwater and surfacewater quality, recommendations for safe development of future gas wells, and the importance of energy conservation. The students are in the process of collecting information through online and face-to-face discussions.

Oram, a former Wilkes University professor of hydrogeology, is currently working as a consultant in environmental science. He is part of a team of geologists associated with Wilkes University that is developing a citizen database of private well water quality as a baseline for monitoring groundwater quality in the future. Understanding the condition, quality, and variation in groundwater quality is the only way we can effectively protect this valuable resource and assist private well owners in our community.

To find out more about study, see the website at private well owner and watershed survey is available at

About B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc.

B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc., based in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Poconos, has been providing professional geological, soils, hydrogeological, and environmental consulting services since 1985. The company specializes in the following areas: hydrogeological and wastewater evaluations for siting land-based wastewater disposal systems; soils consulting (soil scientists), environmental monitoring, overseeing the siting, exploration, and development of community/ commercial water supply sources; environmental training/ professional training courses, and other environmental services. For more information about B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc., visit and

Check us out of facebook
Water Research Center

methane gas migration - YouTube Videos

Saturday, December 10, 2011

PA Marcellus News Digest December 8, 2011 and PA State Impact Fee

Capitolwire: PA business groups back zoning compromise, 'consistent' impact fee policy.

By Kevin Zwick
Staff Reporter

HARRISBURG (Dec. 8) – Several business organizations sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett and state lawmakers, urging them “to reconcile the differences” between the House and Senate Marcellus Shale bills to pass legislation before the end of the month.

But while legislative leaders have reached a compromise favorable to the state’s leading business organizations on zoning, the two chambers are still at odds with each other and the Corbett administration on other important aspects of the proposals.

One key component upon which the business groups agreed with the Legislature is the zoning compromise that would allow local officials to regulate oil and gas so long as laws provided for “reasonable” development of oil and gas. Local officials and gas companies would also be able to request that the Attorney General review an ordinance to determine whether it allowed reasonable development.

“We recognize the powers of municipal governments in land use planning and zoning, and support legislation that sets our clear, statewide, uniform standards reserving to our local governments their relevant zoning powers,” the business organizations wrote.

However, it’s unclear whether the Corbett administration is open for changing their stance on the zoning aspect of the legislation. In November, the governor actively pushed for a plan that would totally negate all local zoning on Marcellus Shale drilling. He said in a letter that the state used to have this power over drilling, lost it through court cases and needs to re-establish it to keep drilling rigs from moving to Ohio, where there is pre-emption.

When asked if the administration is still promoting its statewide zoning proposal, Corbett’s top energy staffer Patrick Henderson said: “Addressing the zoning issue is an important component of the Marcellus Shale legislative package. We remain committed to continuing our productive talks with the House and the Senate and reaching resolution as soon as possible.”

David Patti, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business Council, said the organizations could live with the compromise between the House and Senate.

“We get that local governments wanna have some say and they get that through zoning,” Patti said. “As long as [local governments are] not using it in a pejorative way … that’s where the Attorney General comes in.”

“We don’t wanna expand beyond the Municipalities Planning Code [MPC] framework,” Patti said. The MPC provides local governments with tools to plan development through options like zoning and land development ordinances.

The heads of four major Pennsylvania business groups – Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and the Allegheny Conference of Community Development, along with Patti’s organization – signed the letter.

Legislative leaders and the administration are still at odds over how to collect the impact fees.

The business groups also called for “standardized” and “consistent” environmental, safety, health, labor, transportation, taxation, and impact fee policies “across all municipal jurisdictions in the Commonwealth without local variation or uneven enforcement.”

Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, on Wednesday said members of the Senate GOP caucus are against imposing a county-by-county impact fee collection, but prefer a statewide collection performed by the state. Some Senate GOP members believe allowing counties to choose to collect an impact fee is “not good business,” Scarnati said.

This garnered a response from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, who said that having a county-by-county collection was “key” to passing legislation in the House, and a top House GOP staffer said negotiating on the county-by-county collection is “a non-starter.”

The Senate has three session days scheduled for next week, and none after that. The House is scheduled to be in for four days next week and two days the following week. Scarnati said on Wednesday that he would not call for extra session days unless it was to vote on a final product that had been agreed to by the Senate, House and governor.

PA Marcellus News Digest
Chesapeake Bay Foundation: PA General Assembly: No more delays!
Dec. 7, 2011
(HARRISBURG, PA)—Matthew J. Ehrhart, Pennsylvania Executive Director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and member of the Governor's Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, today issued the following statement:
"The environment and our communities cannot afford any more delays. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation continues to urge the Pennsylvania General Assembly to work together to resolve the important issues surrounding the extraction of natural gas from unconventional shale formations.

A call to fix inadequate Marcellus Shale bills
Rep. Vitali
Dec. 7, 2011

HARRISBURG, Dec. 7 – Legislators, experts and local officials today called for significant improvements to two Marcellus Shale bills during a Capitol news conference hosted by state Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware.

Salts From Drilling, a Drinking Water Danger, Still Showing Up in Rivers
90.5 Essential Public Radio
Reid R. Frazier and Ann Murray
Dec. 2, 2011
(audio included)

Standing on a catwalk over a pool of water near the banks of the Ohio River, Frank Blaskovich points at a series of pipes draining into the far end of the pool.


Cabot study shows "no relationship" between methane in water and drilling
Scranton Times-Tribune

Dec. 8, 2011
A recent study by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. geologists published in the Oil and Gas Journal found that methane is "ubiquitous" in Susquehanna County groundwater in a pattern that reflects the contours of the region's geology and that there is "no relationship between dissolved methane and oil and gas activities."

County impact fee remains sticking point
Scranton Times-Tribune
Robert Swift
Dec. 8, 2011
HARRISBURG - A county-optional Marcellus Shale impact fee remains a sticking point in three-way negotiations to shape compromise legislation addressing a host of drilling-related issues.


State, driller and families in Dimock water dispute file arguments with board
Scranton Times-Tribune
Laura Legere
Dec. 8, 2011

Families fighting for drinking water deliveries to resume in Dimock Twp. and the state regulators and natural gas driller who say they were right to allow the deliveries to stop submitted arguments Wednesday in a case before the Environmental Hearing Board.


EPA Implicates Fracking In Wyoming Pollution
Dec. 8, 2011
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday for the first time that fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.
The draft finding could have a chilling effect in states trying to determine how to regulate the process.


Troubled ethanol plant looks to sell water for fracking
Ethanol Producer Magazine
Holly Jessen
Dec. 1, 2011
Idled ethanol plant Bionol Clearfield LLC is working to get approval to sell some of the water it would be using for ethanol production to sell to the natural gas extraction industry for “fracking.”

Gas royalty payments not as much as thought
Dec. 7, 2011
STATE COLLEGE (AP) - A re-evaluation of state personal income tax returns has shown Pennsylvania received much less tax money than it expected from natural gas royalties.

Pennsylvania's Department of Revenue last week released an updated report on how much Marcellus Shale-related revenue it received in personal income taxes - a figure that shines light on the amount, in rent and royalties, that state residents are receiving from gas companies.


Rapp bill addresses federal role in ANF oil, gas rights

The Times Observer
Josh Cotton
Dec. 8, 2011

State Rep. Kathy Rapp wants the feds to stop meddling in the Allegheny National Forest.
State legislation intended to limit the federal government's attempt to control access to mineral rights in the Allegheny National Forest passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Committee on State Government on Wednesday.


Feds: Pay attention to drilling in Pa., elsewhere
Centre Daily Times
Kevin Begos
Dec. 7, 2011

PITTSBURGH — The final report from a federal panel on natural gas drilling warns that the industry and the government need to do more to address environmental concerns.


Senate Impact Fee Vote Shines Light On How Bills Are Passed

NPR State Impact
Scott Detrow
Dec. 7, 2011

The state Senate’s Environmental Resources and Energy Committee is set to consider and approve the House’s impact fee today.


Capitolwire: Senate concerned over county-by-county impact fee collection.

When asked whether he thought there could be compromise on the issue, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, responded: "The local option was in the governor’s proposal and was a key component to passage" by the House.
A House GOP source later said compromising on the county-by-county collection would be "a non-starter."

Kevin Zwick
Dec. 7, 2011
(full text below)

HARRISBURG (Dec. 7) – The Senate’s top Republican said some members of his caucus believe that a county-by-county impact fee collection plan – supported by the governor and adopted by the House – is “not good business.”

“If we wanna be business friendly, we do it statewide,” Senate Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, said on Wednesday after a Senate environmental panel voted to replace language on the House's shale bill with the Senate bill's language. “If we wanna have a hodgepodge, maybe we could accommodate some of that going to a county-by-county.”

Gov. Tom Corbett proposed the county-by-county collection system, and the House adopted that into their legislation. But Scarnati says the Senate’s plan calls for “uniformity” by having the state collect the fee.

“I’m not sure where the compromise ultimately lies, but many members of our chamber believe county-by-county is not good business,” he added.

Based on the response by the governor’s office and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, the Senate’s plan isn’t the answer either.

"We can think of nothing more business unfriendly than a hodgepodge approach toward local zoning, or adopting a severance tax under the guise of being an impact fee," Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said in an email about any shale plan.

Turzai said that the House's bill was "essentially the governor’s proposal."

"The governor indicated that he wanted a county option in his Marcellus Shale proposal, which came from his commission," Turzai said. "Our caucus is completely supportive of a county option and we do not see how it can be done without a county option. It was a cornerstone of the governor's proposal ... we do not support a statewide tax."

When asked whether he thought there could be compromise on the issue, Turzai responded: "The local option was in the governor’s proposal and was a key component to passage" by the House.

A House GOP source said compromising on the county-by-county collection would be "a non-starter."

But Scarnati said he still believed a deal was possible.

“At some point we have to reconcile all those differences…we’re confident we’re gonna get there. Are we gonna get there next week? Difficult. Could we get there by the end of the year, that just depends on how well everybody wants to move this process along,” Scarnati said.

He said he would only add session days to the end of the year to vote on a final product that was an agreement with the House, Senate and governor.

The Senate's language includes a higher fee imposed per well over a longer period of time compared to the fee structure in the House bill.

Each chamber's respective bill has similar language regarding local zoning, which would allow the Attorney General to weigh in on whether local zoning laws allow for "reasonable development" of oil and gas.

Scarnati would not go into details about the ongoing negotiations with the House and governor's office, saying he did not want to “jeopardize” those talks.

“What I can say is that our caucus still has reservations on a county option. … It’s something we think we can resolve, hope we can resolve, and like I said, those negotiations are ongoing and I just don’t wanna discuss what is being negotiated to jeopardize the process,” Scarnati said. “It would be unfair of me at this point - because negotiations are going on - to characterize the negotiations."

Senate Democrats still have concerns about financial aspects of the legislation, said Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Allegheny, but some colleagues prefer the Senate product to the House bill.

“The Senate bill is far better than the House bill,” said Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, although he said southeast lawmakers have “serious questions” about issues of transmission pipelines.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne, said the pipeline issue is a “paramount concern” for her constituents.

Scarnati said that issue would be addressed in separate legislation.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gas company whistle-blower details spills, errors - Cabot - Dimock PA

Not my work - I am reviewing this article.

"DIMOCK TWP. - On a bright fall day in 2008, Scott Ely arrived at the natural gas well a few hundred feet from his home to find work strangely stilled.

His fellow employees of Cabot Oil and Gas Corp.'s drilling subsidiary were watching the only thing moving: a huge plume of gas "like Niagara Falls going upwards" buffeting the drilling rig from below, he remembered.

The gas in the air was sickening.
"They told me they hit a methane pocket," he said. "We're waiting for Cabot to tell us what to do, whether we should try to punch through it or plug it."
They punched through it - a pocket of shallow gas about 1,500 feet down that pumped out the equivalent of 900,000 cubic feet of gas per day, according to a report later commissioned by Cabot.

When drilling was finished, muddy puddles on the pad bubbled with the gas seeping through the gravel.
"Right next to the wellhead it looked like 1,000 Alka-Seltzers going off," he said

Mr. Ely, a GasSearch Drilling Services employee from spring 2008 until mid-2010, is one of more than a dozen Dimock residents suing the company because of what happened next: his family, including three small children, began to get cramps, rashes and headaches. Months after Mr. Ely noted something was not right with his water and first warned his employer to test it, a company representative asked his family to evacuate to a Tunkhannock hotel because dangerous levels of methane seeped into the home with every shower or load of laundry.

Now, state officials have found that Cabot met the obligations necessary for the driller to stop delivering replacement bottled and bulk water to 19 homes, including Mr. Ely's, where the methane tainting the water has been linked to Cabot's faulty wells.
Cabot, which says the water is safe to drink and use, plans to stop the deliveries in 10 days.
'We're the sacrifice'

Long silent about reckless practices, unreported spills and buried problems he said he witnessed on Cabot's well sites, Mr. Ely said the prospect of losing fresh water twice to drilling forced him to speak out

"It's terrible that we're the sacrifice," he said. "We're the sludge that comes off and then we're just washed away."

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Mr. Ely outlined allegations he first shared with Cabot officials and state regulators in the month after his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the driller in November 2009.
In the two years since he led the officials on a tour of every failure he witnessed at Cabot's Dimock sites, he said he has received no answers from the company about what they found in the soil and streams.

Cabot officials told the newspaper that a report proving its operations had no negative environmental impact is ready to be released this month, but they would not disclose the findings until the final report is submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection.

According to Mr. Ely:

Cabot tried to hide, minimize or ignore at least five diesel spills or their impacts between 2008 and 2009. After an 800-gallon diesel spill in June 2008, a drilling supervisor instructed him to move a reference point hay bale away from a spot where lab tests showed persistently contaminated soil after treatment.

"I said, 'So you want them to test where there's no hot dirt?' " he recalled. "He said, 'That's the idea.' "

 Company pits leaked or their plastic liners were carelessly torn before their contents were buried on 13 occasions. The earliest, haphazardly constructed pits were used to catch toxic fluids that flowed out of the wells, but the spray frequently missed the pits or blew out of them.

"In the beginning we would dig a hole and then we'd just throw plastic in it," he said. "That was more or less to make the homeowners feel comfortable about us drilling on their property."

 On at least two occasions, Cabot employees scraped contaminated soil, sand or gravel from a drilling pad then pushed it over the pad's bank.

At one site, Mr. Ely watched a bulldozer operator clear a pad covered in a "big, goopy concoction" of sand and spilled gels and acids by pushing the mess over a bank, he said. State files for the second site show that an inspector from the Department of Environmental Protection discovered an unreported pile of diesel-soaked soil dumped at the edge of a farmer's field.

Cabot had well-control or casing problems on three wells other than the Gesford 3 site where Mr. Ely saw the plume of shallow gas. A "wild well" specialist from Texas was called to a site on Mr. Ely's father's property in late 2008 after a failed valve made it impossible to shut off the spewing well, forcing the family to evacuate overnight.

Something loose in the well jammed the flow, and workers resorted to dumping buckets of methanol on dry ice stacked around the wellhead to freeze it.

"That well could have let loose at any moment, at any time," he said. "We didn't know what was stopping it from blowing out of there but we knew the well was full of fluids."

Cabot files report
After Mr. Ely described what he saw to Cabot officials, the company contracted the environmental consulting firm URS Corp. to investigate any environmental impacts from the alleged incidents.
A final report of the investigation, which was initially outlined by URS in March 2010, will be submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection by Nov. 30, Cabot spokesman George Stark said.

"We have worked with the past administration and we're working with this administration to demonstrate soundly that none of the areas laid out in the accusations exceeded the cleanup standards or were outside the norms of protective health and safety," he said.

Mr. Stark said the 20-month investigation involved close consultation with the DEP and required a year of groundwater monitoring at one of the suspect sites, but ultimately revealed that "there really wasn't anything there."

The company will not release any data from the report before it is submitted to the department, he said.

A DEP spokeswoman confirmed that the agency has been in "constant contact" with URS about the investigation and is anticipating "a report to see what steps they have taken as far as all of the violations."

"We expect a report shortly as to how they are complying with the recommendations we gave them," spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.

Mr. Stark would not address many of Mr. Ely's specific allegations, since they are dealt with in the report, but said Cabot "takes environmental stewardship seriously and thoroughly investigates all environmental claims."

Asked if he disputes that the incidents alleged by Mr. Ely ever happened, Mr. Stark said, "Each of them has been investigated and the resulting analysis shows that either there was something to investigate further or nothing to investigate."

He said he would not dispute that shallow gas escaped from the Gesford 3 site, but he challenged Mr. Ely's "visual opinion" of the event.

"I'm not saying it didn't happen," he said. "But, if it did occur, we're not aware of any problems as a result of it."

Spills documented

Many of the spills described by Mr. Ely were also documented during state inspections of the well sites, often after Cabot reported the incidents to regulators. Some of the incidents described by Mr. Ely have already gone through state-reviewed remediation and been cleared, Mr. Stark said.

According to agency records, the DEP issued violations at Cabot sites for at least 51 separate incidents involving spills, seeps or releases between 2008 and 2010, including after a July 2009 inspection found stained sand on the well site where Mr. Ely said the "goopy" concoction was later pushed off site.

In a document compiled for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Cabot reported 19 spills and releases of hazardous substances or wastewater at its Susquehanna County well sites and 14 additional spills "where Cabot does not have sufficient information to confirm that a release of a hazardous substance ... occurred" between June 2008 and May 2011.

The company explicitly did not include instances of methane migration into water supplies in its EPA report because "Cabot disputes the validity of these allegations," the company wrote.

Cabot claims elevated levels of methane reach Dimock water supplies through natural pathways. It has produced data showing detectable amounts of methane naturally occur in 80 percent of the water wells it has tested in Susquehanna County in a geological pattern that mirrors the occurrences in Dimock.

Cabot was forced by the DEP to plug three of its gas wells suspected of allowing methane to taint water supplies, including the Gesford 3 and 9, the twin wells where Mr. Ely saw the methane plume and where Cabot lost a drill bit in unconsolidated rock about 800 feet down.

In correspondence with the DEP in September 2010, Cabot called the three wells "safe, properly constructed and valuable" even though the company proposed earlier the same year to drill a relief water well at the Gesford pad "in an attempt to degas the aquifer," according to DEP documents.
"The department has many reservations concerning this course of action," a regional DEP oil and gas manager wrote.
The last three years in Dimock have been remarkably caustic, with the driller at times pitted against state regulators and neighbors who embrace the company at odds with those suing it.
Mr. Ely has stood at the heart of that division.

A Dimock native whose grandparents' name was given to a creek that runs through town, he is building a new house and raising a family on his father's homestead.

With a speciality in spill prevention and response for gas stations and other petroleum services, he joined GasSearch as a heavy equipment operator and later helped set up the subsidiary's drilling rigs.

He found that the companies working on the drilling sites "had no care for what spilled anywhere. It was the most reckless industry I've ever seen in my life," he said. "I stood up because I couldn't see them just wrecking everybody's properties."

The roles he has been given in the last few years have forced him to split his loyalties: a leaseholder with tainted water, an employee of the company blamed for the contamination, a plaintiff in the case against his employer, a neighbor trying to protect his neighbors and, in return, being accused of blowing their best chance at financial comfort.

"I'm not against the oil industry," he said. "I am not against any of my neighbors extracting the gas from the land to achieve wealth, small or large. I am not here to deprive them at all of that."

In fact, he said, "I know they can do this in a safe manner" and in many ways he has seen that Cabot and others have improved: The driller no longer uses pits and now uses liners and other containments on its well pads to protect against spills reaching the ground.

"Things are different because of what happened at the beginning," he said. "Things are different because we spoke out."

He fears that the state will set a low bar for the Marcellus Shale industry if the DEP does not change course and require Cabot to continue water deliveries - something DEP Secretary Michael Krancer says he will not do because Cabot met the legal obligations outlined in an order drafted during the Rendell Administration.

According to the order, Cabot could stop the deliveries after it offered to install methane-removal systems and funded escrow accounts with twice the tax-assessed value of each affected home. The quality of the residents' drinking water was not a factor in that aspect of the agreement.
"How can they retract all that science?" Mr. Ely said of the DEP's record of Cabot's violations. "They can't go through and say that Cabot's findings clear them of all charges."
On a cold morning last week, he pulled the handle on a spout above his water well and let the water run for half an hour.
Clear and effervescent for more than 20 minutes, the spray of water then turned a milky brown. He caught it in a glass.
"All we want is water," he said, standing outside his soaring, half-finished home that is waiting for its brick walls.

"We are pleading for help. We are on our last straw."

Read more:


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created an “Eyes on Drilling” tipline for citizens to report non-emergency, suspicious activity related to oil and natural gas development. EPA is asking citizens to call 1-877-919-4EPA (toll free) if they observe what appears to be illegal disposal of wastes or other suspicious activity. Report also may be sent by email to Citizens may provide tips anonymously if they don’t want to identify themselves. In case of an emergency, such as a spill or release of hazardous material, including oil, to the environment, citizens are advised to call the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. According to the EPA, public concern about the environmental impacts of oil and natural gas drilling has increased in recent months, particularly regarding development of the Marcellus Shale formation where a significant amount of activity is occurring. While EPA doesn’t grant permits for oil and gas drilling operations, there are EPA regulations that may apply to the storage of petroleum products and drilling fluids. The agency is also very concerned about the proper disposal of waste products, and protecting air and water resources. EPA is asking citizens to report the location, time and date of such activity, as well as the materials, equipment and vehicles involved and any observable environmental impacts. Instructions for the tipline are at:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Percolation Testing for Pennsylvania Septic Systems- On-lot Disposal - Training Courses Continuing Education



Section 73.15. Percolation tests.

Percolation tests shall be conducted in accordance with the following procedure:
(1) Number and location. Six or more tests shall be made in separate test holes spaced uniformly over the proposed absorption area site.
(2) Results. Percolation holes located within the proposed absorption area shall be used in the calculation of the arithmetic average percolation rate.
(3) Type of hole. Holes having a uniform diameter of 6 to 10 inches shall be bored or dug as follows:
(i) To the depth of the proposed absorption area, where the limiting zone is 60 inches or more from the mineral soil surface.
(ii) To a depth of 20 inches if the limiting zone is identified as seasonal high water table, whether perched or regional; rock formation; other stratum; or other soil condition which is so slowly permeable that it effectively limits downward passage of effluent, occurring at less than 60 inches from the mineral soil surface.
(iii) To a depth 8 inches above the limiting zone or 20 inches, whichever is less, if the limiting zone is identified as rock with open joints or with fractures or solution channels, or as masses of loose rock fragments including gravel with insufficient fine soil to fill the voids between the fragments, occurring at less than 60 inches from the mineral soil surface.
(4) Preparation. The bottom and sides of the hole shall be scarified with a knife blade or sharp-pointed instrument to completely remove any smeared soil surfaces and to provide a natural soil interface into which water may percolate. Loose material shall be removed from the hole. Two inches of coarse sand or fine gravel shall be placed in the bottom of the hole to protect the soil from scouring and clogging of the pores.
(5) Procedure for presoaking. Holes shall be presoaked, according to the following procedure, to approximate normal wet weather or in-use conditions in the soil:
(i) Initial presoak. Holes shall be filled with water to a minimum depth of 12 inches over the gravel and allowed to stand undisturbed for 8 to 24 hours prior to the percolation test.
(ii) Final presoak. Immediately before the percolation test, water shall be placed in the hole to a minimum depth of 6 inches over the gravel and readjusted every 30 minutes for 1 hour.
(6) Determination of measurement interval. The drop in the water level during the last 30 minutes of the final presoaking period shall be applied to the following standard to determine the time interval between readings for each percolation hole:
(i) If water remains in the hole, the interval for readings during the percolation test shall be 30 minutes.
(ii) If no water remains in the hole, the interval for readings during the percolation test may be reduced to 10 minutes.

(7) Measurement. After the final presoaking period, water in the hole shall again be adjusted to approximately 6 inches over the gravel and readjusted when necessary after each reading.
(i) Measurement to the water level in the individual percolation holes shall be made from a fixed reference point and shall continue at the interval determined from paragraph (6) for each individual percolation hole until a minimum of eight readings are completed or until a stabilized rate of drop is obtained whichever occurs first. A stabilized rate of drop means a difference of 1/4 inch or less of drop between the highest and lowest readings of four consecutive readings.
(ii) The drop that occurs in the final period in percolation test holes, expressed as minutes per inch, shall be used to calculate the arithmetic average percolation rate.
(iii) When the rate of drop in a percolation test is too slow to obtain a measurable rate, the rate of 240 minutes per inch shall be assigned to that hole for use in calculating the arithmetic average percolation rate. The absorption area may be placed over holes with no measurable rate when the average percolation rate for the proposed absorption area is within the limits established in § 73.16 (relating to absorption and spray field area requirements), Table A.
(iv) When a percolation test hole is dry at the end of a 10 minute testing interval, that hole may not be used in the calculation of the arithmetic average percolation rate. If 1/3 or more of the percolation test holes are dry at the end of a 10 minute testing interval, the proposed absorption area may not be designed or installed over these holes unless the local agency determines that an anomaly caused the fast percolation rate and a retest of the area is within the acceptable percolation rate limits. If no anomaly is discovered, the local agency may accept the percolation test results from the remaining holes if the results are supplemented with the results of additional percolation testing conducted outside of the area in which the dry percolation holes were found.
Source of Information
Direct link to Chapter 73

More information on Septic Systems In Pennsylvania

Online Training Courses

Hands-On Training Courses in Soil Science and Describing Soils

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Arsenic in Private Well Water In Pennsylvania

What is arsenic?
Arsenic is a semi-metal, a member of the nitrogen family. It occurs naturally in the earth and in the seas. It is odorless and tasteless. Arsenic is an element (As) that occurs in the earth’s crust-rock, soil, all natural sources of exposure, or can be traced to deep water brines used to produce oil and natural gas. Consumption of food and water are the major sources of arsenic exposure for the majority of US citizens. People may also be exposed from industrial sources, as arsenic is used in semiconductor manufacturing, petroleum refining, wood preservatives, animal feed additives, and herbicides.

Arsenic can combine with other elements to form inorganic and organic arsenicals. In general, inorganic derivatives are regarded as more toxic than the organic forms. While food contains both inorganic and organic arsenicals, primarily inorganic forms are present in water. Exposure to arsenic at high levels poses serious health effects as it is a known human carcinogen. In addition, it has been reported to affect the vascular system in humans and has been associated with the development of diabetes.
As compared to the Western part of the United States, it is relatively rare contaminant in Pennsylvania groundwater supplies. A recent survey by the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) found that arsenic exceeded 5 ppb in 5% of wells in Pennsylvania.

What is the measurement of arsenic?
On June 22, 2000 EPA proposed a 5 ppb standard for arsenic. EPA requested comment on 10 ppb, 5 ppb and 3 ppb. Based on the comments, EPA is implementing a 10 ppb standard for arsenic. This rule became effective on February 22, 2002 and systems must comply with the new 10 ppb standard is January 23, 2006. The Proposed Arsenic Rule, updated March 2002, can be found by visiting the EPA Website.
What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?
Observable symptoms of arsenic poisoning are: thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis, and blindness.

How does arsenic enter my private water system?
It is widely thought that naturally occurring arsenic dissolves out of certain rock formations when ground water levels drop significantly. Surface arsenic-related pollutants enter the ground water system by gradually moving with the flow of ground water from rains, melting of snow, etc. Either way, ongoing testing for arsenic is an important strategy by the private water system owner to safeguard the health and well being of their family.
Is my private well at risk?
Like many contaminants in drinking water, the element is potentially hazardous at levels or concentrations that do not impart a noticeable taste, odor, or appearance to the water. Your best course of action is to get you water tested and compile as much information as possible about your water supply source, well construction, surrounding land-use, and local geology. If you do have an arsenic problem, there are water treatment technologies available now that can reduce or even remove arsenic from your drinking water. Note: Do not just test your water for Arsenic because there may be other primary and secondary drinking water standards that are elevated or that may interfere with the proposed remediation system.
1. Get your Water Tested and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
2. Compile information on the types and location of hazardous waste and industrial sites in your area.
3. Contact your States Environmental Protection Division.
4. Other water testing services- Water Check Testing Packages - multiple packages to fit your needs.
5. If you are not in PA - go here.

What types of treatment devices will make my water safe for consumption?
The following water treatment technologies are effective in reducing arsenic from drinking water:
1.Activated alumina filters
2.Cation exchange
4.Reverse Osmosis
6. Iron Oxide Filters
Pretreatment may be needed in some cases to ensure acceptable treatment by the primary unit. Also, as a safeguard against organic arsenic, granular activated carbon filtration should be added. Some of the treatment technologies may not be amenable to point-of-entry, whole house treatments. In these cases, point-of-use units may be the best option. Periodic testing should be maintained after the treatment system is in place to ensure objectives are being met.
Note: In many cases, arsenic will be removed when iron is removed through an oxidation process. Recent Testing in Northeast Pennsylvania (NEPA) - Available Data shows 8% of the Private Wells had Arsenic Above the Primary Drinking Water Standard.

Water Treatment Systems

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Citizen Science and the Citizen Groundwater/ Surfacewater Database

Citizen Science and the Citizen Groundwater/ Surfacewater Database
The Concept- The Need- The Purpose

The Private Well Owner Outreach Program in Pennsylvania

by Mr. Brian Oram, PGFor the past 20+ years, I have been conducting water quality analysis, baseline tesint, and conducting education programs for the citizens of Pennsylvania. Even though our groundwater resources are one of our most important assets, there is limited data on the quality and quantity of regional groundwater. While working at Wilkes University, I held establish the formation of a "Citizen" Groundwater and Surfacewater Database. Even though I no longer work full-time at Wilkes University, I am working with Dr. Brian Redmond and Dr. Sid Halsor on the development, formation, and creation of this community tool. This regional water quality database is an unbiased warehouse of water quality data that is supported by fellow "Citizens" of this Commonwealth. After reviewing this information, I would hope you will take action and support the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database.

The database will provide information about the current state of groundwater and surface water quality and serve as a basis for monitoring impacts related to Marcellus gas drilling and other activity in our region. The database initiative is the first of its kind in northeast Pennsylvania and the initial database targeted private wells in Luzerne and Columbia Counties, but we are reaching out to build partnerships throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania so the database can include other counties in the area, i.e., Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Sullivan, Wayne, and Wyoming (Resource: Initial Press Release dated –August 17, 2010).

The purpose of our database is twofold. We will use it to help us better understand the current and future groundwater and surface water quality for the region. The database will also be used to generate educational materials relating to regional water quality. The database is for research and education purposes, and will not be sold or used for any commercial purpose. The database is managed by representatives of the Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences Department at Wilkes University, i.e., Dr. Brian Redmond and Dr. Sid Halsor.

To protect your privacy, the research database file will only include the testing results, zip code, general information on well or water source, and the latitude and longitude of the sampling site. Your name, address, or other contact information will NOT be included within the database.

This is what citizens are saying about this service and community resource:

"WOW! I can’t thank you enough. My only regret is that you are not here to do the rest of the tests for my community. If all this drilling wasn’t coming here, I would be begging you to bring the family here." (Darlington, Pa)
"KUDOs to Brian and others for putting the concept together" (Wayne County, PA)
"Thank you for a most informative discussion last night. I think it may have opened many eyes and minds to well contamination issues already in the community" (Regional Task Force, PA).

II. More Information or Host a Community Event
If you have not conducted baseline analysis and have questions about the testing process and suggested parameters please go to Submit Your Questions or Request for Assistance. Send a copy of your water quality data or host a community meeting where the water quality data could be compiled. To request a community meeting - email or Please put Citizen Database in Subject.
III. Guidelines for Data Submission (Data Qualifications)

For your data to be included in the database, it will need to meet the following criteria.
1. For inclusion in the water quality database, the water sample must have been collected using an independent third party for the sample collection and following the chain-of-custody process.
2. The testing must have been conducted by a certified laboratory which provided you with a copy of the certified results including a listing of methods, method detection limits, and reporting limits.
3. The field survey must include the GPS position of the well or you must grant permission for us to visit your property to document the GPS position of your well.

4. The field survey should include the static water level in the well prior to purging the system or you must grant permission for us to visit your property to determine if the static water level can be documented.

5. The water sample must be collected ahead of any water treatment system.
6. If the sample was collected after natural gas drilling within 1000 feet of the well – this should be stated on the information request sheet.


Chain-of-Custody – Is typically a document that tracks the sample from the time of collection to delivery to the certified laboratory and any subsequent releases of the sample to other laboratories for analysis.
Certified Laboratory – a laboratory that has been approved and certified by the Pennsylvania Laboratory Accreditation Program for the specific testing parameters and methods of analysis.

III. My Data Qualifies – What Do I Need To Do? - ACT NOW - Get the Forms you NEED!
In order to participate in this process, please do the following:
1. Information Document about the Program (Please Keep for Your Reference).
2. Download a copy of the Consent Form and Return/Signed.
3. Send a copy of your certified laboratory testing results with Chain-of-Custody Documents. (Download Data Qualification Requirements)

4. Mail this information to:
Mr. Brian Oram, PG
Citizen Outreach Program
15 Hillcrest Drive
Dallas, PA 18612

Questions - call (570) 335-1947
or send a pdf version by email to or

5. Schedule a Community Event - This includes a presentation on the database, suggestions for baseline testing, discuss on Methane Gas Migration, initial review of the data, and then submitting individual summaries of the results to the citizens.
6. Participate in the PA Private Well Owner and Watershed Survey

To Learn More - Go Here NOW.


Brian Oram, PG

Citizen of Pennsylvania

Web Portals

Looking for Free Information on Water Quality- Try the

Our Facebook Sites - B.F. Environmental Consultants - Water Research Center

PSU Study on Marcellus Drilling Impacts on Drinking Water Bromide

"Study on Marcellus Drilling Impacts on Drinking Water

Penn State scientists just released a report on water quality in private water wells in rural PA before and after drilling of nearby Marcellus Shale gas wells. Although the study didn’t find significant contamination of drinking water wells, researchers caution that there needs to be more intensive study.
They also noted unexpected high levels of bromide after drilling, and expressed concern for health impacts. In addition to testing water, the study also documented the enforcement of existing regulations and the extent of voluntary testing by homeowners.

The study, which took place in 2010 and 2011 focused on 233 water wells located in close proximity to Marcellus gas well pads. Phase I of the study (2010) tested 48 water wells within 2500 feet of a well pad both pre- and post-drilling. Phase II tested an additional 185 wells located within 5000 feet of a Marcellus gas well pad post-drilling.

A statistical analysis of pre- and post-drilling water chemistry did not find significant differences due to drilling or hydro-fracking when considering the pollutants “most prominent in drilling waste fluids.” Unlike the Duke study, this study found no significant increase in methane after drilling, and no significant correlations with distance from the well pad.
But, the researchers pointed out, this lack of data could be due to the lack of testing beyond 1000 feet. According to PA law the industry is presumed responsible for pollution of water supplies within 1000 feet of a well pad for six months after drilling. So, few people pay for testing beyond that distance.

One thing the scientists did find was increased levels of bromide in water wells after drilling and/or fracking. “These increases may suggest more subtle impacts to groundwater and the need for more research,” they write. Increased bromide levels were often accompanied by increased levels of sediment and metals in the water. These increased levels were observed within 3000 feet of the gas well pads – suggesting that 3000 feet is a more reasonable distance for testing than the current 1000 feet.

Bromide is rarely tested as part of the industry-sponsored pre-drilling baseline sampling. The PSU researchers selected bromide as a parameter for their study because it is typically not found in detectable concentrations in undisturbed groundwater and because it is found in relatively high concentrations in drilling gas wastes. For those reasons it serves as a good indicator of the influence of gas drilling on groundwater.

In the pre-drilling samples bromide levels were always well below detection levels (0.1 ppm). But in seven wells bromide was detected in measurable concentrations. Those wells were located within 1670 feet of five different Marcellus well pads that were operated by three separate companies.
While bromide does not present a health hazard by itself, it combines with disinfection agents to create a carcinogenic byproduct - and that concerns the researchers. They suggest two potential sources of the bromide: drilling mud and flowback fluids."
You can read more of their findings at
1. The above is not my work - but since this author will not permit me to comment - I will place my comments here:
a. It would have been good for PSU to document the type of activities that were used by those three companies.  This could have generated a better idea of the practice that may have caused the problem.  This could have lended support to : liners, closed loop drilling, use of only freshwater while drilling through the freshewater system, self-contained sites, etc.  Also there was no comment regarding well location - side slope, upgradient, and/or downgradient.
b. Why after completing Phase I - and identifing a bromide issue was not this parameter evaluated in Phase II - did i miss something.  If the only fingerprint from Phase I was bromide - why not do it in Phase II - and funding is not answer.
c. Did private well construction play a role?
d. The actual water quality data for the six wells presented in Figure 9 should be provided.
e. We recommended bromide monitoring in 2009.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dialogue and Working as a Community – The Marcellus Shale Factor

Dialogue and Working as a Community – The Marcellus Shale Factor

In Pennsylvania, Commercial Oil and Natural Gas Development dates back to 1859 and Colonel Edwin Drake work in Northwestern Pennsylvania, but in 1795 settlers in the Montrose area talked about water that would “bubble and catch fire like black powder”. Later it was determined that the salt spring contained methane gas and in late 19th and early 20th century a commercial salt and oil operation was attempted. This site is now known as Salt Spring State Park in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania and it is a great historic site.

Unlike the attempts at Salt Spring that failed, it appears that the commercial development of the methane gas in the Marcellus Shale will be commercially viable. It is clear that methane gas is not uniformly distributed in the Marcellus Shale, but methane gas if virtually everywhere in our environment. Remember, methane gas has no color and no odor. Methane gas can be found in saturated soils, lake sediments, glacial materials, wetlands, landfills, buried floodplains, Catskill Formation (primary source of drinking water for NEPA), coal deposits, and the unconventional gas reservoirs like the Marcellus Shale. There is no primary or secondary drinking water standard for methane gas, but there are some guidance levels because of concerns related to the potential for accumulation of the gas and the creation of an explosive environment. The new guidance level in Pennsylvania is 7 mg/L methane in water (For the record, the old action level was 10 mg/L) and we have action levels with the airborne concentrations reach 10 percent of the lower explosive limit. This means that if the explosive value was 1, we take corrective action and provide venting, passive or active, when the airborne level is at 0.1. The level of methane in water and the level in a confined headspace do not correlate well. If gas is building up in the headspace of a well or other confined area, the problem is that the space is NOT properly vented and this needs to be corrected.
Regarding the level of methane gas in our region prior to Marcellus Shale Development, it has been my professional experience that the level of methane gas can range from not detectable to greater than 28 mg/L and in fact I lit my first tap in 1989. The concentration of methane gas in water is highly variable from well to well, region to region, and with time at the same well. It has been my experience that methane levels can change from < 10 mg/L to over 15 mg/L in the same well in the matter of a few days and concentrations may vary from < 2 mg/L to over 7 mg/L in just under a 100 feet. This was one reason, in 2009, I had proposed lowering the recommended action level in Pennsylvania to 7 mg/L. The level of methane in water is control by many factors that include barometric pressure, rainfall amounts, ice cover on soil, groundwater levels, water well operation, depth of pump setting, depth of well, and the geological setting. All of these factors can cause the headspace and dissolved methane to fluctuate and if the headspace is not properly vented, methane gas can accumulate. Private Wells need to be vented and vented properly.

Because of the interest in natural gas development, the baseline testing being done by the industry and fellow citizens is demonstrating very clearly the fact that PA Groundwater is not PURE. In fact, the groundwater contains measurable to explosive levels of methane gas, plus other trace elements, but of specific concern is that up to 50% of private wells may not meet a primary drinking water standard because of bacterial contamination, arsenic, barium, or lead. Primary drinking water standards are set because of specific health concerns. When speaking about this issue, I use the phrase the “Marcellus Shale Factor”. The development of this natural resource is just another reason we need to work together as a “Community” to “Get The Waters Tested”. We have problems now and the only way we can solve them in the future is to recognize the weakness and make a change.
Throughout my career, I have conducted extensive groundwater and private well testing in Pennsylvania and the world. We created the web-portal as a free information resource for the community and we are continuing our work on the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database for NEPA. In addition to this effort, we are conducting a private well owner watershed survey and planning to offer free radon in water screening. With the help of our fellow citizens, this data warehouse will allow us to better understand our resources, our current issues, and track future change. This database is not a regulatory tool, but an informational tool that could be used to make decisions that ensures the health, safety, and welfare of our community and environment. With respect to the PADEP decision that the methane gas levels meet the requirements of the consent document for Cabot, it is my hope that the continued monitoring, that should be done, will confirm this conclusion and that as a community we could work together to move forward. We are a community of citizens, we may not all agree but we must work together – this is our home. It is critical that local stakeholders come together for form local task forces and create community-based resources to educate, assist, and inform the citizens so fact/ science and not fear rule the day. My hope is that the first order of business would be the development and implementation of private well construction standards and a program to fix and upgrade existing private wells, a program to test alternative practices to mitigate methane gas, and the development of a best-management practice manual for the Marcellus Shale in our region. It is critical we work together to ensure the health, safety, and economic welfare of our citizens and environment.

Original = Full draft of the article submit for consideration to the Scranton Times
The actual article that was approved.

Recent presentations related to Methane Gas Migration
Training Workshop Scheduled for November 4, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Methane migration, other water problems explored at Oil & Gas Force Meeting By Josh Wengler Honesdale, Pa. — Obviously, methane migration is a problem in Pennsylvania.

"Methane migration, other water problems explored at Oil & Gas Force Meeting By Josh Wengler Honesdale, Pa. — Obviously, methane migration is a problem in Pennsylvania.
The question, says former Wilkes University professor and professional geologist Brian Oram, is whether that problem is a result of Marcellus Shale gas extraction or has always been with us and is only coming to light now due to the increased scrutiny gas drilling has brought about.

One of two speakers brought out to help residents understand this issue, Oram spoke Tuesday at a forum on methane migration held by the Wayne County Oil and Gas Task Force at the Stourbridge Plaza.With news in recent years of such high profile cases as the Dimock residents whose water wells exploded due to methane concentrations, it’s easy to understand peoples’ fears.

It’s also easy to understand how people associate such cases with Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction, Oram says. However, he says methane has always surfaced in Pennsylvania wells and in some cases has brought about deaths when concentrations were high enough to explode whole houses long before the Marcellus Shale was even on the radar.

The longtime laboratory manager for Wilkes’ Center for Environmental Quality before leaving this year to pursue his own projects, Oram said, “I have spent the last 23 years testing water in Pennsylvania and all around the world, and I can tell you that although our water is very pristine, about half of our private wells do not meet drinking water standards...”

The reasons for this are many. Chief among them are bacterial infestations, Oram said, along with high pH values, iron and manganese, which causes discoloration and possible health risks, lead, which is also toxic to humans and plasticizers known as phthalates.

These noxious — and unregulated in terms of their use in water wells — petrochemicals are often used to soften the plastic piping used to pump water from wells and have been known to cause cancers and endocrine disruptions.

These things are the real problem, Oram said, calling each water well a “pinprick” in the aquifer below. He pointed out that unlike gas wells, private water wells are not required to have a cement “grout” to fill the space between the perfectly round casing and the never-perfectly round well bore. This, he said, makes each water well a potential pathway for contamination of myriad types.
Then there is the methane.
“I lit my first private well in 1989,” Oram said, “In my first year when I started working at Wilkes. Not a year ago or two years ago. Methane has been with us a very long time.”
To illustrate this point, Oram showed slides of houses blown apart by methane concentrated in the well or in other enclosed areas that naturally bubbled up from the well where no drilling had ever been present. He also pointed out that in places like Salt Springs National Park in Susquehanna County, naturally occurring methane has been used since the 1700s for heat and light and can still be seen today bubbling up from the ground.

Methane gas in the water is highly changeable, both Oram and fellow speaker and geologist Burt Waite explained, able to saturate groundwater at increasing densities as pressure increases deeper into the well.

Since the bottom of the well is where we draw our water from, it then stands to reason that as water is drawn up and that pressure is released at the pump or spigot, the methane can no longer be held by the water molecules and explodes outward, sometimes with enough force to kill.
Since the average water well is hundreds of feet deep but the depth of its casing is only measured in tens of feet, methane — whether naturally occurring or released by much deeper hydrofracking — has no barrier to finding its way into water wells.

It is a problem that must be addressed, to be sure, but how to address it?

According to Oram, the only way is to gather as much data as possible from as many varied sources as possible, then overlay those data sets with what we know about the structural formations in the earth under our feet. Armed with these analyses, we can then gain a much clearer understanding of where the risks are, how severe they may be and hopefully how to mitigate them.
To that end, Oram — using his own money, he is quick to add, without funding from any other group — is compiling a database of water testing information from as many private wells as possible in the state.
The database, known as the Citizens’ Ground Water and Surface Water Database, solicits private citizens’ professional baseline water test results — whether tested by a gas company or at the property owner’s expense — for inclusion in hopes of developing a clearer understanding of the hydrogeology of the state, which Oram says can only help in protecting the most valuable resource we have, our water.

That resource is one we have not done a great job of safeguarding thus far, he says.

Even if only because of the fear Marcellus Shale gas extraction has raised, it’s time we all got serious about protecting it."

EPA to control fracking fluids disposal - A good thing for Pennsylvania

EPA to control fracking fluids disposal

Friday, October 21, 2011
By Laura Olson and David Templeton, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau  (Not my work)

HARRISBURG -- "Federal environmental officials announced Thursday that they plan to develop new rules over the next three years for disposing of natural gas drilling wastewater. Those rules will create national standards for handling the briny wastewater produced from drilling underground coal and shale formations.

Pennsylvania officials say they expect the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines to dovetail with a state request issued in April that gas drillers stop hauling wastewater to unequipped municipal treatment facilities.

But state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer also questioned whether the EPA rules are necessary, noting that several of the federally overseen facilities also voluntarily stopped accepting wastewater after the DEP request.
"Because of what we did with regulations and our April call [to drillers], it virtually dried up," Mr. Krancer said in an interview.
Meanwhile, the regulatory announcement drew cheers from environmental advocates concerned about water safety. Industry officials expressed skepticism, saying they viewed the move as duplicative to current rules.
Officials at the EPA pointed to a July letter from Mr. Krancer as one reason for the agency to become more involved in what has traditionally been a state-regulated industry.

In that letter, the secretary wrote that there were several specialized pre-treatment facilities that the commonwealth lacked the authority to ask to stop accepting drilling wastewater. He urged the federal agency to update its rules concerning those treatment centers, noting that Pennsylvania's request to state-regulated treatment centers had resulted in near-universal compliance.

Drilling wastewater in Pennsylvania no longer is handled through any facilities that discharge water back into streams or rivers, according to the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group. That water is either recycled and reused, or disposed in government-regulated injection wells both here and in Ohio.

But federal officials appear to have some questions about that process. An agency spokesman said "extensive data gathering" is planned, including visiting well sites, talking with industry and environmental groups, and compiling a national survey of the shale gas industry.
Coal bed methane standards are expected in 2013, and rules for shale gas wastewater in 2014.
The agency said the proposal reflects recommendations in the U.S. secretary of energy's advisory board report. Among that panel's August suggestions was that agencies "should review and modernize" rules regarding protection of ground and surface water.They also have proposed updated air emissions rules, which would impact oil and gas wells that go through the hydraulic fracturing process.

That increasing federal involvement in drilling regulation has prompted some in Congress, including U.S. Reps. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, to push back against what they say is a "one-size-fits-all" approach from Washington."Pennsylvania has a lot more people to enforce than the EPA does and a lot more understanding of the local topography," Mr. Murphy said. "The DEP is better equipped to do it."

Business groups such as the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association echoed that sentiment, noting the local expertise has grown in the commonwealth."This is yet another Washington solution in search of a problem, as treated Marcellus water in Pennsylvania is no longer discharged into surface waters," said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Some environmental advocacy groups, however, believe additional oversight by the EPA is sorely needed.

"The nation is in the midst of a fracking-fueled gas rush, which is generating toxic wastewater faster than treatment plants can handle it," said attorney Deborah Goldberg, of the Washington, D.C.-based Earthjustice. "The EPA's proposal is a common-sense solution for this growing public health problem and will help keep poisons out of our rivers, streams, and drinking water."

Drilling companies in Pennsylvania are recycling fracking fluids, but eventually these fluids will have to be disposed of in injection wells or treated in plants designed to process fracking fluids, she said.

Clean Water Action filed a notice in May that it intended to sue the Franklin Township Municipal Authority in Greene County and McKeesport Municipal Authority to stop them from treating fracking fluids. The Franklin plant in turn stopped accepting well wastewater. In July, Clean Water Action filed suit against the McKeesport authority to force it to stop accepting drilling wastewater.

Laura Olson: or 717-787-4254. David Templeton: or 412-263-1578. Tracie Mauriello contributed."

1. Good - the use of recylcing of this waste by the industry will be a good interim measure, but this is not a long-term solution.
2. We need long-term solutions that provide a safe and secure mechanism, but also that takes the guess work out of the regulatory climate in PA.


Brian Oram

First published on October 21, 2011 at 12:00 am

Read more:

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Review of Drs Howarth, Ingraffea & Engelder debate pro's & con's of hydrofracking From Nature magazine

Note - Final Edits are not done !

As always I hope that the experts in this area would help to move this debate, but this article like many presentations let me down and I do not think provide much help to aid in bridging any divides or really educating the public or professionals.    The article has more spin and this is something that the scientist should not be engaged.  These pros and cons articles need to stop - We need Recommendations, Solutions, Best Practices, and Real Science- Lets stop the guessing.

My primary concerns with the article are as follows:

1. Natural Gas drilling is regulated, but the hydraulic fracturing process, as used in PA,  in most cases is not regulated by the EPA - UIC Program.   Reference -  I think the process should be regulated if it is used for shallow extraction from coal bearing formations or within the Upper Devonian.

Does this mean they are except from the Safe Drinking Water Act?  NO !    The 2005 Halliburton Loophole - Get the facts Yourself (From Congress of the United States). It is important to note that the process was never regulated - the 2005 decision actually started the first regulator over site of this process if diesel fuel was used.

2. The hydraulic fracturing is an old process, but I would agree that as it is used today - the overall process is relatively new.  What is also new and different are the chemicals that are used and that are not used.  There is a lot of spin and in response there are newer "greener chemicals and products being used", there is disclosure about the products and these have been listed within the permit documents.  There are no real secrets other than the staging process and mixture. The frac focus website is a very good start.   Where the article could have provided to the reader was what more is needed:

a. Better surface control on site - require all drilling sites to be lined and self-contained.

b. Require closed loop drilling.

c. Require more baseline testing and increase the radius of responsibility and time frame to be realistic.

d. How about some monitoring of the saline water aquifer - before and after the drilling process?  and How about real-time monitoring of the on-site surfacewater discharge from storm basins?  Not hard - sensors are cheap and can be reused.

e. The processed may not need to be EPA Regulated - but it would be good to have coordination with EPA and DEP and to provide protection of both the freshwater and saline water aquifers.

f. I agree there is a significant lack of studies, but how about studies without the spin.  Just the facts and only the facts.

g. Open pits, even lined,  for flowback water - should be banned - Only closed loop drilling should be permitted.  No on-site burial of wastes or materials - and if this is done - the deed of the property must disclosure the location of surface and subsurface features.

h. They did not even discuss a large concern - the cuttings going to the landfill.  In some cases a portion of the cutting may be suitable as a soil amendment - the limestone inter-beds would be an excellent soil amendment (alkalinity and low radiological) and we really could use on some of our abandon coal mine lands- Yes this will require some research and demonstration and monitoring- but filling up the landfills with this material is not a good idea.

i. How about some real insights into methane gas migration - there are still changes needed in how the casing is installed and cemented?

j. How about making sure we protect and seal the freshwater and saline water (saline water - I am assuming water with a Total Dissolved Solids of 10,000 mg/L or less).

3. I will not begin to discuss the "Carbon Foot Print"  - this may be important, but really?  If we are really concerned about the "Carbon Footprint" - we should stop using gasoline for cars, use massive transit, solar/wind/ and ground source and become more energy efficient.  We should promote reforestation, land-use change, encourage the use of biofuels like switchgrass and wood burners and get rid of the pavement and asphalt we do not need.  But - what do we do - We ban wood burners and change the stormwater management requirements to a point that we are pushing water through the shallow aquifer- Not good.

Take a look at : Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009, USEPA #430-R-11-005  _ Biggest greenhouse gas cited carbon dioxide - biggest sources of green house gases - generating electricity and what (transportation).

Increasing energy efficiency will hit all energy companies in the wallet - Immediately.

Please note: Methane emissions, which accounted for 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, resulted primarily from natural gas systems, enteric fermentation in livestock, and decomposition of wastes in landfills - Guess what we can have a direct influence of at least two of these sources and indirectly we can turn down the thermostat and put on some socks.  How about we take some responsibility??

Also - A little told Fact - THE Biggest greenhouse gas is WATER Vapour- "Water Vapour is the Worlds MOST Significant Greenhouse Gas"- Source.  It accounts for 95% of Earth's greenhouse effect - Methane only 0.066 % and CO2 - 0.117 % of total.  Of man-made - CO2 is 99.438 %.  

Lets stop the spin and get to the facts and fix the problem - This is the problem with our government- and use-  we take sides and our side is Correct - Guess what - the Answer is always in the Middle.

 4. Contamination  - in PA it appears that the extent of the contamination is primarily related to spills and surface releases and in part some of the suggested contamination cases are basically a good guess or a presumption.  It is kind of interesting that both sides are ok with presumptions when it meets their goals, objectives, or opinions.  The other route of contamination has been methane gas migration.

How about changing state law to require all drilling sites to have containment systems and liners?  Can we agree on this?
How about requiring real-time monitoring of on-site monitoring wells or private wells during the drilling process?

Who is to blame?  All of us, but I am going to put the industry and scientists in the cross hair.  The consumer is always part of the problem

a. Industry - Why ?  Well they say a lot of stupid things - 

That information is proprietary and can not disclose, but it is disclosed in permits, at work sites, etc.  Finally - the industry set up the Frac Focus Website - why Pressure - they finally realized they made a mistake.

Methane is present in background levels from natural sources that include biogenic and thermogenic gas.  Some of the thermogenic gas has leaked up naturally over geologic time from the shale into the overlying sandstone units.  Because the formation is over pressurized - not all has leaked out only some, but adding more pressure and increasing porosity and permeability for a short period of time will NOT cause a short-term release of some gas or push other gases. Really - Does this make sense??  The more likely answer is there may be a increase in the pressure, but because of the low permeability of the overlying rock and time the gas will not move far.  If it does move, it is likely to move vertically and then horizontally along bedding contacts and contacts between formations and not directly up into the freshwater aquifer.  Good places to monitor- the deep wells along valley structures or wells that produce saline water and/or elevated levels of biogenic and themogenic methane gas.

Methane gas migration is a problem - we do not put enough strings of casing, we need to properly clean the borehole of mud and we need to make sure the cement harden and properly bonded.  Methane gas migration is a problem - it needs to end and it is a waste of a valuable resource.   Borings need to be fully cased and fully cemented, tested, and monitored.

b. Scientists and Universities - Why ? The Hands are out -Looking for funding - Maybe we should take some community interest and do some work.

We need to stop putting out our hands and sit down and have a conversation and get some ideas in the field.  We need to take a hard look at the data.  Not because it is funded, because we want to get the facts and help the communities make good decisions.

c. The Discussion - We need to have a discussion on consumption, energy efficiency, how to change us- since WE the People are the Main Problem and We need to start work on the Carbon Sequestering Issue and carbon neutral energy systems for the long-term.

Just my thoughts

Brian Oram, PG
Citizen of PA

My give back to the community

1. Private Well Owner Survey for the Marcellus Shale - Updating a Free Booklet
Survey - possibly a free radon in water test
Survey (pdf version) for Mailing
Booklet (free)

2. Citizens Groundwater Database and Help Reviewing Water Quality Data

3. Website dedicated to educating the Public

4. Private Well Owner Online Guide

All Free !

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Radon in Well Water Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Radon in Water Wells and Well Water

What is Radon?
Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, radioactive gas found beneath the ground. It occurs naturally and is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon has the ability to dissolve into our water supply.

How does Radon get into the water?
Most radon that is found in homes in Pennsylvania as well as many other parts of the country is typically found in the air. It is far less common to see radon in well water. Radon enters into a home from seepage through cracks in the basement floor and walls, but also outgassing from well water and the materials used to construct your home. When you live in an area where there is an abundance of granite or even sedimentary rocks that contain uranium or other radionuclieds you are more apt to find radon in the water supply.
High levels of radon gas are formed by the decay of naturally occuring radioactive elements in the bedrock within the region - the rock does not have to be granite, but any rock that contains radioactive elements.  This would include sandstones, siltstones, claystones, and shales within Northeastern Pennsylvania.

For radon to become a soluble within the water that travels through the cracks in the bedrock, it first has to come in contact with a radium source that is in the process of breaking down into the radon gas. During the transformation, the radon atoms that are created, will either go from the rock and into the water, or they will stay in the rock and not effect the water at all. Because the formation of radon in a sedimentary rock unit is a function of the distribution of radioactive elements, there can be a significant variation in the levels of radon in the air or water. When radon is found to be present in well water- the primary concern is not ingestion - but inhalation of the radon gas while showering, washing dishes, and wash chothes in a poorly vented area.

How to find out if there is Radon in well water?
1. Do you live in a radon hot spot?  Well if you live in NEPA you are in a radon hotspot.  To get more details go to our sister website on Radon in Water.  You will also want to get a Radon in Air Test.
2. Get the water tested informational testing or include this parameter in any baseline testing.
3.What is an action level ?

Good Question - This depends on the level of radon in both the air and water.  If the radon in air is over 4 pCi/L and Radon in Water at or above 300 pCi/L.  You will need to take some action to remediate.

How to remove Radon from well water?

There are two methods of removing Radon from well water. One is called a Radon Aeration system and the other a Granular Activated Carbon system or GAC system for short.  In general, Radon Water Treatment - aeration treatment - will also provide for methane reduction (90+% reduction) and  carbon block filtration (85+% reduction).  There are showerhead and faucet mounted carbon block units on the market that work very well.

Need for Help - Try these website

Radon in Water
Radiological Contaminants
Water Treatment Systems
Radiologicals and Marcellus Shale

Training Courses Related to Radon

Radon Measurement Training Course
Asbestos Training Course
Home Inspector Certification Program

Research Announcement-
Research in the marcellus shale region, looking for Private Well Owners with baseline data to permit us to collect radon in water samples for analysis. This is unfunded research that will be used as part of the new booklet. If you want to assist with this effort, please email - Looking for Private Wells in Northeastern PA.  To participate in this research effort, you must provide a copy of your available baseline testing data and submit an informational form about your well. It is our hope to conduct up to 200 radon in water tests in NEPA.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


On Tuesday, October 11, 2011 at 6:30PM, Green Field Energy Solutions will kick off a series of workshops as part of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Environmental Education Grants Program at Lackawanna College Environmental Institute in Covington Township, PA. The program will provide information on energy efficiency, energy savings, and solar and wind renewable energy solutions. The program includes education on 350 Kick the Watt, a program to reduce individual energy consumption to meet the goal of reducing the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Additional presentations are scheduled at Waverly Wellness House, Waverly on October 12th at 7:00PM, and Johnson College, Scranton on November 16th at 12:00PM. Others will be scheduled throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. This program will also offer onsite tours in partnership with Sustainable Energy Education Development Support (SEEDS), a community-based organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania committed to developing a local renewable energy infrastructure and promoting more sustainable living in our area. The first Green Building tour is scheduled for October 1st at 8:00AM.

For more information on upcoming events please call Deana at (570) 876-0537 or email

For other Green Design - Alternative Energy- Sustainability training programs

Friday, October 7, 2011

Petroleum Engineer

Online Training Programs

15-hour Petroleum Engineer Training
This is a 15 hour package of online courses catering to petroleum engineers. The courses contained in this package are:

Ethical Decision Making for Engineers #2 (1 hour)
Petroleum: Gulf of Mexico OCS Oil and Gas Pipelines (1 hour)
Petroleum: Liquefied Natural Gas - The Global Market (2 hours)
Petroleum: MMS Case Studies - Offshore Oil & Gas Safety Alerts (1 hour)
Petroleum: Oil and Gas Drilling Technologies (1 hour)
Petroleum: US Code - Oil Pollution Liability & Compensation (2 hours)
Petroleum: Waste Minimization in the Oil Field (3 hours)
OSHA Pressure Vessel Chemical Cracking (1 hour)
Underground Natural Gas Storage: Basics (1 hour)
Pipe Support Systems (2 hours)
Course Meets Multi-Stater Training Requirements !

Purchased individually these courses would cost $546.25. When you purchase this discounted package you save $54.59!

More Training Courses in Petrochemical Industry.
Looking for other training opportunties - go to

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Governor Corbett Announces Plans to Implement Key Recommendations of Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission

Proposed Impact Fee Would Benefit Host Communities, Aid Public Protection

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Tom Corbett today announced his plans to implement numerous recommendations of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, including changes to enhance environmental standards, an impact fee, and a plan to help move Pennsylvania toward energy independence.

"This natural resource will fuel our generating plants, heat our homes and power our state's economic engine for generations to come," Corbett said. "This growing industry will also provide new career opportunities that will give our children a reason to stay here in Pennsylvania. We are going to do this safely and we're going to do it right, because energy equals jobs."

As a result of the public Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission meetings, we now have a sensible and fair plan to put before the General Assembly, Corbett said.

The plan will make sure that Pennsylvania's economy benefits from developing this new source of wealth and energy independence, while also ensuring that the environment and natural beauty of this state are protected.

As a part of this proposal, Corbett announced a series of prudent standards related to unconventional drilling, including:

•Increasing the well setback distance from private water wells from the current 200 feet to 500 feet, and to 1,000 feet from public water systems; (Good Start!)

•Increasing the setback distance for wells near streams, rivers, ponds and other bodies of water from 100 feet to 300 feet;(Good Start, but a little concerned if this applies to first order streams!)

•Increasing well bonding from $2,000 up to $10,000-(Still too low);

•Increasing blanket well bonds from $25,000 up to $250,000 (Better);

•Expanding an unconventional gas operator's "presumed liability" for impairing water quality from 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet from a gas well, and extending the duration of presumed liability from 6 months after well completion to 12 months (Better- 2 years would be better- what about continued monitoring);

•Enabling DEP to take quicker action to revoke or withhold permits for operators who consistently violate rules; (Good)

•Doubling penalties for civil violations from $25,000 to $50,000; and (Still too low!)

•Doubling daily penalties from $1,000 a day to $2,000 a day. (Still to low !- some earn $ 30K per well)

This plan will also allow for an impact fee, which will be adopted by counties for use by local communities experiencing the actual impacts of the drilling. The fee will be used by local governments, counties and state agencies that respond to issues that arise as a result of Marcellus Shale gas drilling.
"Estimates show that this impact fee will bring in about $120 million in the first year, climbing to nearly $200 million within six years," Corbett said. "As the number of wells grows, so will the revenue. Almost all of the money it brings in will go to benefit the places experiencing the impact."

Each well will be subject to a fee of up to $40,000 in the first year, $30,000 in the second year, $20,000 in the third year and $10,000 in the fourth through tenth years, adding up to a potential total of $160,000 per well.
Under this proposal, a county may provide for a fee credit of up to 30 percent if the driller makes approved investments in natural gas infrastructure, which include setting up natural gas fueling stations or natural gas public transit vehicles.
The impact fee revenues will be split with 75 percent being retained at the local level, with 36 percent of that number retained by the county, 37 percent distributed to municipalities that host the drilling pads and 27 percent distributed to all the municipalities within a Marcellus drilling impacted county. The distribution formula will be based on population and highway miles.
The remaining 25 percent of the fee would be divided, with 70 percent of that number going to PennDOT for road, bridge, rail and other transportation infrastructure maintenance and repair within counties hosting Marcellus natural gas development, 4.5 percent to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency for emergency response planning and training, and 3.75 percent to the Office of State Fire Commissioner for training programs for first responders and for specialized equipment necessary for emergency response.
In addition, 3.75 percent will go to the Department of Health for collecting and disseminating information, and for health care and citizen provider outreach and education, and for investigating health complaints and other activities associated with shale development, 7.5 percent to the Public Utility Commission to enhance pipeline safety and increase inspections, and 10.5 percent to a restricted account at the Department of Environmental Protection to be used for plugging abandoned and unused gas wells, plus other natural gas related regulation and enforcement.
Corbett said that under this plan, counties and municipalities may use these funds on various expenses related to impacts from natural gas development, including:
•Construction, repair and maintenance of roads, bridges and other public infrastructure;

•Water, storm water and sewer system construction and repair;

•Emergency response preparedness, training, equipment, responder recruitment;

•Preservation and reclamation of surface and subsurface water supplies;

•Records management, geographic information systems and information technology;

•Projects which increase the availability of affordable housing to low-income residents;

•Delivery of social services, including domestic relations, drug and alcohol treatment, job training and counseling;

•Offsetting increased judicial system costs, including training;

•Assistance to county conservation districts for inspection, oversight and enforcement of natural gas development; and

•County or municipal planning.
Corbett's proposal also seeks to help secure energy independence and reduce reliance on foreign oil by developing "Green Corridors" for natural gas vehicles with refueling stations at least every 50 miles and within two miles of key highways; by amending the PA Clean Vehicles Program to include "bi-fuel" vehicles (diesel and natural gas); by helping schools and mass transit systems to convert fleets to natural gas vehicles; by stabilizing electric prices by using natural gas for generating electricity; and by encouraging the development of markets for natural gas and natural gas byproducts, such as within the plastics and petrochemical industries.
The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission issued 96 recommendations. About one-third require legislative changes; more than 50 are policy-oriented and can be accomplished within the state agencies.

The legislative priorities outlined today will be submitted to the legislative leadership in the near future. The governor has instructed the relevant Cabinet Secretaries to create implementation plans for the policy-oriented recommendations and to submit them to his office within 30 days.
Corbett made his announcement during a tour of the Carpenter's Training Center in Pittsburgh with Congressman Tim Murphy and Council of Carpenter's Executive Director Bill Waterkotte. During his visit the Governor spoke with representatives from a number of building trades about their efforts to ensure Pennsylvania workers are trained to fill the new jobs coming to the state from the natural gas industry.

Media contact: Kevin Harley, 717-783-1116

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

Back to top