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

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