Sunday, March 27, 2011

Funding Private Well Water Testing for Citizens on Low or Fixed Incomes Marcellus Shale - The need for a Citizen Based Approach in Pennsylvania

This is still being editted.

This is my comments related to a questions regarding the potential for Free Water Testing to citizens on low to fixed income as it relates to Marcellus Shale Drilling

1. The presumption should be that the water is potable and we do not have elevated levels of barium, strontium, salts, Volatile Organics, SOCs, or radiologicals.  In general, this is true for most PA, but 30 to 50% of private wells have issues NOW, but these problems tend to be related to pH, bacteria, corrosivity, iron, manganese, sulfur, and in some regions methane gas.

2. If the Gas Company or other business or entity that plans to conduct work or operate in this area does not agree with this assumption, then the Gas Company or entity needs to conduct baseline testing.

3. The state regulates the minimal radial distance for this testing currently at 1000 feet, this should be increased. This distance needs to be reflect the actual extent of the horizontal legs for the well.  Therefore, it is likely that regional water testing (surface and groundwater is needed) - probably we are looking at radii approaching 1 mile with a good minimum being about 0.25 miles.  It would be advisable for the companies to compile information on well depth, yield, static water level, and well construction.

4. The person requesting the permit or conducting the activity may want to protect themselves by testing a larger area or taking a regional approach.  This way they would protect themselves from pushes or migration of gases or other substances, not related to their activities.

5. The Gas Companies or entities need to use third party contractors that carry a professional license in PA to conduct this sampling or to oversee the baseline testing and third party certified laboratories.  There can be no ownership or interest in either.   Also, the baseline testing should be done only after the well has been properly purged.  See presentation at

6. If every citizen could get basline testing for  free - What to test? - we have other problems or concerns than natural gas drilling.

Free Water Testing - Some have offered a Government Approach

1. Personally - It may be difficult to give monies to families or pay for their water testing because it opens a large can of "worms":
a. Funding Source – some state funding sources does not permit the use of the data for legal actions. I think there would be a solid push back if tax revenues or fees or fines were used for this effort.  Fees and fines should go to help implement change in Pennsylvania.

b. I do not believe everyone needs at $ 1000.00 water test and some need way more, but who decides? Who does the work the state, local certified lab, - who collects? Fees will not be the same statewide and we do not need MORE State Empolyees.

Baseline sampling is not just about getting a water sample – but also includes documenting static water well, well flow, and type of existing system. We would not want to create a false sense of hope. Also, there is no way we (the state) can afford comprehensive testing that includes synthetic organics for every private well.

c. We test for Marcellus shale impacts, but what if the impact is a geothermal well leaking glycols, a fuel station, road salt and not brine water, etc.

Who is liable? Who is the collector- remember there are not “state approved collectors” ? Are we maintaining chain-of-custody?

Well drillers our licensed – but there is not real training or education requirements in PA.

Water treatment plant operators – licensed have experience, but do they want this liability and would they make the best expert witness for these low income homeowners?

d. Privacy –Does the citizen have to release the data if they get funding? If there is a problem with the water what is done ? Remember – it is common that 30 to 50+ % of private wells have a problem with meeting the total coliform standard- again this does not relate to Marcellus or industrial contamination may be agriculture or land-based wastewater.   Also  - Does this open the door to commercial solicitations for water treatment systems- If the Data is public???

e.Lack of support

In most counties, private wells are not regulated, no funding to help private well owners fix , and there are no formal statewide private well construction standards- a lot of recommendations.

Do we force people to fix wells? I know people that drink water from a stream, from cisterns, etc – Does this have to change?

I know people that purchase homes and only tested for total coliform and the problem was arsenic - What NOW?

What if these low income individuals rent? Is it the landlords obligation? (I would say yes and the landlord should pay for the testing).

f. Reliability and Need– the type of water quality baseline testing is not a one test fits all situation. Also – there is no state-wide certification for water samplers and what happens if someone needs to go to court?

g. What happens when we (the state) test a persons well and everything looks fine, but when it is retested the problem is a parameter that may have been high prior to drilling and that parameter was not tested. Who’s fault is this ??

A person receiving the free water test – may claim that the free water testing program was the expert and they are responsible or partially responsible – because the program should have recommended this parameter.
h. What about impacts related to chemicals that do not have a drinking water standard?
Personally – I am not a big fan of this approach. I think very basic water testing / screening is affordable and should be the responsibility of the well owners. Also, I think the regulations regarding baseline testing need to be expanded to include a slightly larger radius and may need to include other activities and industries. We do baseline testing for Marcellus shale, large volume wastewater, and mining, but how about gasoline stations, storage areas, pipelines, industrial / manufacturing sites, and large commercial.
Personally, I think one of the biggest problems is that individuals and some organizations are only recommending the very comprehensive testing– I no longer have a well and my annual water bill is over
$ 700.00 per year and when I did have a well I had it tested annually for total coliform, pH, and conductivity – cost about $ 40.00.

My recommendation on baseline testing:

1. Require gas companies or anyone seeking a permit to develop to conduct baseline testing?  This would apply to a quarry, natural gas drilling site, gas station, or single family residential development.  This testing should be specific to the potential impacts or concerns.

2.For citizens that want a third party test - Foundations and other could help support this effort through a 501 c3 with this mission.  Some are forming - One example is Shale Test
I think the natural gas companies need to pay for water testing when they are working within a specific area. I think it is important that most of our groundwater contamination problems NOW, predrilling, are related to poor well construction and siting, underground storage tank program, stormwater runoff, and not the gas industry. I am not saying that natural gas may not be a problem, but we have a lot of other problems.

I would rather see the state do the following: (excluding issues related to natural gas)

a. Develop Private Well Construction and Placement Standards This could be a state program or implemented by the local township or county ! State, Industry, or Professional Association could develop the outline and allow local agencies to implement and run.  Use state monies to support the implementation of this program.

b. Develop better standards for geothermal wells. This could be a state program ! State, Industry, or Professional Association could develop the outline and allow local agencies to implement and run. Use state monies to support the implementation of this program.

c. Require monitoring wells at gasoline stations and under facilities storing gasoline and oil. This could be a state program and paid by the developer.

d. Develop a program to fund repairing, replacing, and fixing private wells. This is better for a foundation or non-profit- not the state.   Curent Program in NEPA -

e. Providing a funding program to properly abandon private wells- through a microloan program that is funded by a charge on consumptive water use or a portion of fines associated with contamintation. This could be a state program - managed by a non-profit organization.

 How about the state via the Basin Commissions and others establishing a fee of $ 0.005 per 1000 gallons of water used for consumptive water uses go into a micro-loan program to help fix private wells? - A local Non-profit organization is running a program and could implement a state-wide effort.  A loan program is preferable, because this makes the program sustainable.   The program could use a portion of the funds that have been paid back for direct grants to fix hardship cases, invest in other infrastructural improvements, and reinvest in the community.

f. I would hope the industry would fund community based private well programs either loan or direct grant programs that are direct grants than a state-wide effort – this way all businesses can participate in a local community effort.

g. We need to work as a community – this is the one reason I am working on the citizen database. The citizens release the data, but the dataset only includes approximate position and zip code, plus the data.   If this is not done, the gas industry will know and control all baseline testing data in our state - they will be the only ones with all the data - NOT a GOOD Idea - please support the "Citizens Groundwater / Surfacewater Database-

h. Encourage local municipalities to develop well water construction standards and ordinances. I have been pushing this for 20+ years.

To this end, the Pocono Northeast RC&D Council has rolled out an educational program and a potential funding program for private well owners to fix problems. The program would offer a low interest loan (I think 1 %) to fix problems with private wells for families with income less than median and seniors within our 10 county area. To learn more – sign up for the Pocono Northeast RC&D Council newsletter –

Test the water is only half the problem.

I think this may be a perfect role for a foundation, Business/ Community Network, but not PA Government or another Government Agency.  If you interested- contact the Pocono Northeast RC&D Council

Radon in Water Testing - Using Radon to Tract Methane Migration

Radon causes an estimated 14,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It is the earth's only naturally produced radioactive gas and comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. You cannot see or smell radon, but it can become a health hazard when it accumulates indoors. It can enter your home through cracks and openings in the foundation floor and walls. When radon decays and is inhaled into the lungs, it releases energy that can damage the DNA in sensitive lung tissue and cause cancer.
Radon is a gas produced by the radioactive decay of the element radium. Radioactive decay is a natural, spontaneous process in which an atom of one element decays or breaks down to form another element by losing atomic particles (protons, neutrons, or electrons). When solid radium decays to form radon gas, it loses two protons and two neutrons. These two protons and two neutrons are called an alpha particle, which is a type of radiation. The elements that produce radiation are called radioactive. Radon itself is radioactive because it also decays, losing an alpha particle and forming the element polonium.
Elements that are naturally radioactive include uranium, thorium, carbon, and potassium, as well as radon and radium. Uranium is the first element in a long series of decay that produces radium and radon. Uranium is referred to as the parent element, and radium and radon are called daughters. Radium and radon also form daughter elements as they decay.
The decay of each radioactive element occurs at a very specific rate. How fast an element decays is measured in terms of the element "half-life", or the amount of time for one half of a given amount of the element to decay. Uranium has a half-life of 4.4 billion years, so a 4.4-billion-year-old rock has only half of the uranium with which it started. The half-life of radon is only 3.8 days. If a jar was filled with radon, in 3.8 days only half of the radon would be left. But the newly made daughter products of radon would also be in the jar, including polonium, bismuth, and lead . Polonium is also radioactive - it is this element, which is produced by radon in the air and in people's lungs, that can hurt lung tissue and cause lung cancer.
Radioactivity is commonly measured in picocuries (pCi). This unit of measure is named for the French physicist Marie Curie, who was a pioneer in the research on radioactive elements and their decay. One pCi is equal to the decay of about two radioactive atoms per minute.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter and written as (pCi/L). One picocurie is one-trillionth of 37 billion disintegrations per second. One curie, named for Marie Curie, the discoverer of metallic radium, is the amount of radiation given off by one gram of radium.
Radon decay products (RDPs) such as polonium(218), lead(214), bismuth(214), and polonium(214), lead(210), bismuth(210), polonium(210) are measured in working levels (WL). A working level is the amount of RDP which normally results when the decay products are in equilibrium (maximum concentration) with 100 picocuries of radon in the air.
RDPs are difficult to measure in a house though, because among other problems, RDPs have a static charge and tend to plate out (stick) to walls, furniture, clothing, dust, smoke, and other objects and substances.
One of the problems with understanding the amount of risk due to a specific radon level measurement is that the risk statistics are based on an average lifetime (70 years) spent in an exposed area, even though the average American moves every 7 years, and is thus exposed to many different radon levels.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers has set the lowest level, which suggests a radon action level of 2 picocuries per liter or less for commercial buildings and residences. The EPA has adopted a 4 picocuries per liter of air action level. The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, on the other hand, suggests an action level of 16 picocuries per liter (while miners are in underground mines).
Because the level of radioactivity is directly related to the number and type of radioactive atoms present, radon and all other radioactive atoms are measured in picocuries. For instance, a house having 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air (4 pCi/L) has about 8 or 9 atoms of radon decaying every minute in every liter of air inside the house. A 1,000-square-foot house with 4 pCi/L of radon has nearly 2 million radon atoms decaying in it every minute.
Radon levels in outdoor air, indoor air, soil air, and ground water can be very different. Outdoor air ranges from less than 0.1 pCi/L to about 30 pCi/L, but it probably averages about 0.2 pCi/L. Radon in indoor air ranges from less that 1 pCi/l to about 3,000 pCi/L, but it probably averages between 1 and 2 pCi/L. Radon in soil air (the air that occupies the pores in soil) ranges from 20 or 30 pCi/L to more than 100,000 pCi/L; most soils in the United States contain between 200 and 2,000 pCi of radon per liter of soil air. The amount of radon dissolved in ground water ranges from about 100 to nearly 3 million pCi/L.
Why do radon levels vary so much between indoor air, outdoor air, soil air, and ground water? Why do some houses have high levels of indoor radon while nearby houses do not? The reasons lie primarily in the geology of radon - the factors that govern the occurrence of uranium, the formation of radon, and the movement of radon, soil gas, and ground water.
Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that may cause cancer, and may be found in drinking water and indoor air. Some people who are exposed to radon in drinking water may have increased risk of getting cancer over the course of their lifetime, especially lung cancer. Radon in soil under homes is the biggest source of radon in indoor air, and presents a greater risk of lung cancer than radon in drinking water. The map shown above represents the potential for a radon problem based on geologic boundaries, so that rock and soil units with similar radon generation and transport characteristics.
Radon will dissolve into groundwater and can be transported some way from the source. When the water is exposed to air the radon is released. If a well or bore hole is supplied from such water, the use in an enclosure such as a dwelling or greenhouse will release radon into that environment. Showers and sprays are a prime release method and the greater the water usage, the greater the potential radon problem.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly prepared to set an maximum contaminant Level of 300 to 4,000 pico curies per liter for radon in drinking water. At high levels (i.e. among mine workers) radon is a known human carcinogen. There is, however, epidemiological evidence that low levels present no increase cancer risk (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Dec. 1994). Additional research is needed before the true level of risk associated with low level radon is known.

For more details and tables for exposure

For Radon Testing of Water (Radon in Water, Radionuclide Testing)
Radon in Air and Water Testing and Methane in Air- self test kits or monitoring systems

Source of Information- The water research center (Maps and More Information)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Well Water Testing and Private Water Supply Analysis

Residential Private Well Owner Water Supply and Homeowner Drinking Water

Testing and Evaluation Program

Environmental Education and Outreach - Drinking water testing and analysis services provided by National Testing Laboratories, Commercial Laboratories, and University research laboratory - using certified procedures. The residential water testing program includes analysis for common water quality problems, microbiological contamination, and makes recommendations regarding the potential need for water treatment devices, such as: softeners, reverse osmosis units, distillation, neutralizers, chlorination systems, ultraviolet or UV systems.   The program provides links to quality laboratory testing services or tools to monitor the quality yourself.

Getting your well water or private drinking water source tested is critical.  Here are just a few options:
Option 1: Water Chemistry - NEW Addition- Natural Gas Parameters, plus Lead and Arsenic and Glycols.

Option 2: Bacterial Evaluation - total coliform, e coli, and fecal streptococcus
Option 3: Specialized Bacterial Testing - sulfur related bacteria that may indicate a pathogen is present
Option 4: Metals, Organic, Pesticides, Herbicides, and more
Option 5: Pathogenic Bacteria - New Addition for Repeated Coliform Positives

Comprehensive Water Quality Testing for Information Only (Watercheck Program)
Baseline and Certified Water Quality Analysis in Pennsylvania
Measuring Water Quality (Field Meters) - Students / Professionals

At a minimum, the water should be tested annually.  If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Free Information !
More Green Products

Visit Us on Facebook - we could use some friends.

Bill would require two-mile space between Marcellus drill pads

State Rep. Greg Vitali

"Bill would require two-mile space between Marcellus drill pads
HARRISBURG, March 24 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, today introduced H.B. 1211, which would require at least a two-mile space between natural gas drill sites in the Marcellus Shale formation, minimizing the impact of natural gas drilling on Pennsylvania's landscape.
"Gas companies are drilling more wells than necessary and not considering their impact on the environment," Vitali said. "By spacing wells sites at least two miles apart, we can limit the impacts on our environment and communities without impeding this quickly growing industry."
Vitali chose the two-mile spacing because wells can be drilled a mile horizontally in each direction from a site, allowing most gas to be secured. Despite that, 63 wells have been drilled in a 9-square-mile area, and five separate wells pads are within a quarter-mile of each other in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County.

"Several acres of land need to be cleared for the drilling pad," Vitali said. "Access roads, a water sediment basin and other infrastructure need to be installed and a high volume of truck traffic is required to transport drilling equipment and water to and from the drilling site. This is an intensely industrial operation."

Vitali introduced a similar spacing bill, H.B. 2740, last legislative session.

House Bill 1211 is the second piece of legislation Vitali introduced this legislative session to limit gas drilling's impact on the environment. House Bill 150 would impose a three-year moratorium on additional state forestland being leased for gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. The state has already leased about half of the 1.5 million acres of state forest that lie above the Marcellus Shale formation to gas drillers.

He's also introduced House Bill 33 to tax Marcellus Shale natural gas production to fund environmental programs, assist local governments with costs related to the industry and help address a $4 billion structural shortfall in next year's state budget."

Overall My Comments
1. I like the idea of taxing production - but the money should not just go to the environmental fund.
2. The money should not go to bail out a blotted structural shortfall in the budget.  We need to solve our own problems with cuts in benefits, pensions, etc.  This is a tough decision, but this is what needs to be done.
3. The Money should not go to local governments to address industry issues - the industry should address these issues via local fees, bonds, and agreements.  If the money goes to local government this should go towards energy efficiency, job programs, implementing zoning and planning, implementing stormwater management, implementing need improvements in water and sewers and not road improvements for the benefit of the industry - The industry can pay for this work.
4. Permit permit fees, annual fees, fines, and bonding should be increased to cover the costs for the man-power to review, enforce, and inspect.
This revenue should be invested in "Green Building Projects", "Energy Efficiency", " Conservation- Energy - Water, etc", "Implementing Alternative Energy", Installing Geothermal Heating systems, Fixing Private Wells that are already contaminated prior to drilling or poorly constructed that at as "leaky points" into the groundwater aquifer and reforestation for carbon sequestering. 
Regarding the 2 mile radius - The major problem with this is that it creates inefficiency in extracting the gas and would force the issue of force pooling on our citizens.   The best estimate is that the efficiency of gas removal may only be about 10% of the available gas.  These arbitrary fixed radii does not address the issue that the gas is not everywhere the formation is located and the formation is not homogeneous and isotropic.  The spacing issue would not have prevented Gas Migration - but good steel casing placement, cement bonding, inspectors on-site, and more oversight would have made a difference.

Friday, March 25, 2011

New Legislative Session In Pennsylvania - Just a short summary of some to the proposed legislation

There is a new legislation session in Pennsylvania.   A number of hot and interesting subjects are on the table for discussion:

1. Severance Tax- multiple proposals - one is  5 % of gross value, plus 4.6 cents per mcf.  The main variation in proposal appear to be where the money goes.
2. Impact Fees

Some of the legislation
House Bill 233 - 1 year moratorium on new permits
HB 210 - prohibiting wells using hydraulic fracturing or horizontal drilling within 2500 feet of a primary source of community water
HB 234 - creating a online tracking and reporting system for waste management.
HB 232 - banning drilling in and site preparation in floodplains, plus erosion and sedimentation control - plus moratorium on new surfacewater discharges for 3 years and more
HB 232 - authorize a joint study on cumulative impacts of gas and oil drilling by Fish and Boat, DEP and others
HB 37 - would enable surface owners claim title to subsurface rights after a 10 year period of non-use.
HB 375 - Updates Dormant Oil and Gas Act of 2006
HB 344 - gives PUC authority to adopt and enforce federal safety standards for non-utility natural gas pipelines and creates a registry - sister bill SB 325.

SB91 - requires changes in lease agreements related to landowner liability and limit liability for landowners.
SB127 - Well by well reporting of the chemicals and volumes used in the hydraulic fracturing process. 
and much more

Links to Senator Gene Yaw - local leader on this issue.
Rep Eddie Day Pashinski
Rep Mundy's Website

Why a regional water quality database is needed in PA ?

Why is a regional water quality database needed?
What is the importance of coupling the citizen monitoring efforts?

For me this is the first time that citizens have conducted or obtained water quality data related to groundwater and surfacewater that has been collected in a manner that insures the reliability of the data and provides a comprehensive evaluation of the inorganic, organic, and bacterial quality of the water. 

This type of data has never existed at this scale in Pennsylvania.  The PADEP has only data for community water supply or regulated systems, but private wells are not regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act.  The information that is in the hands of the individual citizen could be compiled into a resource that will benefit the local community, watershed, township, county, and state. 

The database is confidential - no name, address, phone, number, or direct locational information is contained with in the database.  The raw database does not an approximate location and zip code for the site, but the raw data will never be published.

Please consider supporting this Community Effort.   To support this effort, please do the following:

1. Complete an Information Form and submit it along with your data to or

2. Please send a copy of the data, chain-of-custody sheet, and any documentation related to the sampling.

3. If this is confusing, please consider hosting a community meeting.  We would love to attend to speak about this effort and make it easier for citizens to submit their data.

To thank you for your support, we will do the following:

1. Review your data and provide you suggested action items - to help explain and if necessary provide guidance on fixing the problem.  This is one and one assistance - not an online computer software tool.  This is done for free by Mr. Brian Oram, PG at B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.

2. Free Booklet from written by Mr. Brian Oram and two other professional geologists.
3. Happy to attend a community meeting to explain regional data.

4. Online list of suggested water quality parameters.  This listing is slightly different and not as up-to-date as the recommend parameter list by Mr. Brian Oram.

Thanks for your time

Please support the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database in PA

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ecotourism in the Poconos - Exploring Audubons Lehigh - The Auto Tour

Help Support the  Exploring Audubon's Lehigh

Auto Tour
prepared by: The Audubon's Auto Tour Advisory Board
The Auto Tour highlights John James Audubon's 1829 visit to the Upper Lehigh River in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where he explored the variety of birds and other wildlife. The Auto Tour retraces some of his Footsteps through the "Great Pine Forest" and provides the "Explorer" the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the region and its rich industrial and natural heritage. During the 53 mile looped tour, you will be given an opportunity to see the region as John James Audubon, plus enjoy the historic towns and villages, beautiful countryside and scenic views, historical landmarks, and unique geological features.
John James Audubon is the famed 19th century naturalist who traveled, observed, painted and wrote about birds and other wildlife. He lived in Pennsylvania and traveled extensively throughout the United States. The aim of the Audubon's America Program is to help conserve, enhance, interpret, and protect the natural and cultural resources. Where appropriate, the program aims to stimulate tourism, recreation, and economic development on both public and private lands.
During the tour you will be guided using tour map, audio cassette, posted tour signs, and a guide book. The detailed guide book and self-guided audio cassette, and maps are available and the tour and directional signs have been installed along the tour route. The audio cassette not only provides you with directions, but suggestions for side trips and additional history of the region, specific historical events and much more.
Its is our hope that you will be able to discover the beauty of our region just like John James Audubon did in 1829. If you are interested in historic sites and buildings, birding, trails and railroads, wildlife, great scenic views, outdoor activities, and even unique shops, eateries, and stores, the TOUR is FOR YOU !
The mission of the Audubon's Auto Tour Advisory Board is to celebrate the rich natural and cultural heritage of the region by highlighting John James Audubon's 1829 visit to the area. This central them encompasses the auto tour project Exploring Audubon's Lehigh. Through Exploring Audubon's Lehigh the Board will strive to encourage community pride and a commitment along it members to build bridges between communities along the route; to stimulate eco-tourism and economic development; promote preservation of natural and cultural heritage; and to improve the quality of life for future generations.
We are in the process of securing grants that will help cover a portion of the expenses for this project, but we need YOUR HELP. For many of the grants Matching Funds are needed and in some cases matching funds will be Automatically Doubled by private sector sponsors. If you could make a fully Tax Deductible Contribution it would be Greatly Appreciated. If you can not make a donation, please consider visiting our online Auto Tour Store, Visit Our Sponsors Page or please consider becoming a more active member of the Audubon's Auto Tour Committee. To send a donation, please send your contribution to:

Visit Our Website - purchase the Tour DVD and Booklet

Exploring Audubon's Lehigh

PO Box 134

Weatherly, PA 18255

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The 2011 Schuylkill Watershed Congress- March 12, 2011 Presentation by Mr. Brian Oram

The 2011 Schuylkill Watershed CongressSaturday, March 12th,Montgomery County Community College Pottstown, Pennsylvania

The Schuylkill Watershed Congress is an annual gathering of citizens interested in understanding, protecting and restoring local watersheds and streams. This event features a diverse program with concurrent and poster sessions covering a broad range of watershed topics.

This year’s program features 28 concurrent sessions and 7 poster sessions covering a broad range of watershed topics:

* Drinking Water Protection
* Hands-On Macroinvertebrate Identification
* Meeting With Legislators
* Natural Gas Drilling
* Restoration Case Studies
* Water Monitoring
* Green Infrastructure
* Abandoned Mine Drainage Treatment System
* Illegal Dumpsite Clean-up
* Working with Volunteers

During this Conference , I presented the following: "Getting the Waters Tested- The Marcellus Shale Factor".  The presentation included information on geology, hydrology, the available groundwater data in the Citizens Groundwater Database for a portion of the study area, concepts for baseline testing, and much more.     The main topic was how citizens can be part of this effort to document current conditions and ultimately help to track changes.

During the talk, we also discussed issues with the following:

1. Production water management

2. Water Management Issues - ie. accuracy of flow monitoring and importance of tracking waste cradle to grave.

3. Need for using degraded water sources as an alternative to clean freshwater - sources may include mine drainage, treated wastewater, stormwater, and designing drilling pads to be rainwater capture systems to reduce the need for hauling, or other well stimulation methods.

4. We also discussed the importance of casing installation and cementing and need for pre and post-drilling monitoring.  We discussed the low cost informational and education services for Wilkes University and how this may be a cost effective alternative to screen private wells post drilling.

5. Finally we discussed the problem that many private well are currently contaminated prior to drilling and may act as conduits to cause contamination to migrate and facilitate groundater contamination.
6. Using Sourcewater Protection and not "feel good" un-enforceable ordinances (My opinion)to help to protect and manage are surfacewater and groundwater resources.

A copy of my presentation can be found in a pdf format at the Water Research Center

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Eighth Annual PennFuture Watershed Workshop Gas and Our Water: Legal tools for watershed advocates dealing with drilling in the Marcellus Shale

Event Name:

Gas and Our Water: Legal tools for watershed advocates dealing with drilling in the Marcellus Shale

Date & Time: Saturday, April 16, 2011 8:00 AM
Duration: 4 hours, 0 minutes
Location: King's College

This workshop will give grassroots conservation and watershed groups, concerned citizens, and volunteers, the legal tools necessary to protect our water and ensure drilling is done right. Hear from leading environmental professionals and attorneys from some of the most effective environmental organizations about the opportunities to address land use, permitting and enforcement of our laws and regulations. You will also learn more about ways to participate in the permitting process and effective tools to have your voice heard to decision-makers.

Space is limited - cost is $ 10.00 (non-members)

The cost of the workshop is FREE to PennFuture members; $10 for non-members. A light breakfast and all materials are included.
Space is limited and registration is required; register online today or by calling 717-214-7920.
Date: Saturday, April 16, 2011

Time: 8:00 AM - 12:00 PM


King's College

Burke Auditorium

133 North River Street

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18711

Monday, March 7, 2011

DEP Announces Testing for Radioactivity of River Water Downstream of Marcellus Water Treatment Plants Shows Water Is Safe

Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120

Katy Gresh, Department of Environmental Protection Southwest Regional Office

DEP Announces Testing for Radioactivity of River Water Downstream of Marcellus Water Treatment Plants Shows Water Is Safe
HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection today announced results of in-stream water quality monitoring for radioactive material in seven of the commonwealth's rivers. All samples showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of radioactivity. The tests were conducted in November and December of 2010 at stations downstream of wastewater treatment plants that accept flowback and production water from Marcellus Shale drilling.
"We deal in facts based on sound science," said DEP acting Secretary Michael Krancer. "Here are the facts: all samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity; and all samples showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228." Krancer said that these sampling stations were installed last fall specifically to monitor stream quality for potential impacts of Marcellus development. Krancer explained that the water tested is the raw water in the river before it enters public water suppliers' intakes where the water receives further treatment.
The river testing stations that were evaluated are the Monongahela at Charleroi in Washington County; South Fork Ten Mile Creek in Greene County; Conemaugh in Indiana County; Allegheny at Kennerdell in Venango County; Beaver in Beaver County; Tioga in Tioga County; and the West Branch of the Susquehanna in Lycoming County.
For more information about DEP, visit
or call 412-442-4203.

1. Recommend retesting a baseflow
2. Recommend installation of real-time gamma detectors on intakes.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

New Best Practices Manual for Natural Gas Development in the Delaware River Basin

Marcellus Shale

"Protecting Watersheds During Natural Gas Development" - by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation

"The Marcellus Shale Formation is one of largest proven reserves of natural gas in the US. Image courtesy of USGS.
Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale Formation, which underlies most of Pennsylvania and is one of the largest proven reserves of natural gas in the US, has the potential for significant impacts on land and water resources throughout the Commonwealth. Of particular concern are potential impacts on water quality and water consumption in the upper Delaware River basin, the premier source of clean drinking water for millions of people in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. Understanding the potential cumulative effects, using the most comprehensive and authoritative information available, is a critical first step in setting policies that will minimize the environmental impacts of developing this significant energy resource.
Development of “unconventional” shale gas formations generally requires hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), which uses large volumes of water that then must be treated to remove solvents and other pollutants. Spills or leakage of these fracking fluids would have serious impacts on water quality in the Delaware River. Local economies in the middle and upper Delaware River basin are also dependent upon clean water and healthy forests as the basis for outdoor recreation. Land use changes associated with the development of gas wells could lead to widespread forest fragmentation, habitat loss for interior forest species, water quality and quantity impacts, and loss of scenic beauty important to the local economy.
Despite the range of potential impacts, there is only disjointed and inconsistent information available to the general public. Many organizations and entities are active in developing and/or disseminating information to landowners in the Delaware River Basin. This project will not reinvent all of this previous work. It will draw information together into a single, objective, user-friendly resource to meet the needs of landowners and local governments.
With funding from the Heinz Endowments, William Penn Foundation, and Nestlé Waters of North America, the Pinchot Institute is working with regional stakeholders through the Common Waters Partnership to facilitate a dialogue about proposed gas development within the watershed, and how to best minimize the potential for impacts on water quality. While it is likely the Marcellus Shale gas field will be developed, there is still significant uncertainty in the region about exactly where development will take place and under what conditions. "

Website - Pinchot Institute for Conservation
Common Waters Partnership

In the months ahead, the Pinchot Institute will undertake a series of activities aimed at providing the best available scientific and factual information relating to the development of unconventional natural gas resources, and facilitating a dialogue between the community and the gas companies that is as open and inclusive as possible. In addition, an agreement on critical landscapes where the development of natural gas drilling platforms should be avoided or limited will be developed, and a clear understanding of what questions need to be answered through a follow-on scientific assessment of gas drilling in the region.

House Bill No. 895 Introduced by Tina Pickett 110 Legislative District Pennsylvania

As with all blogs this is a living document that is always being edited and updated.

" House Bill 895 - An Act amending the act of December 19, 1984 (P.L.1140, No.223), entitled "An act relating to the development of oil and gas and coal; imposing duties and powers on the Department of Environmental Resources; imposing notification requirements to protect landowners; and providing for definitions, for various requirements to regulate the drilling and operation of oil and gas wells, for gas storage reservoirs, for various reporting requirements, including certain requirements concerning the operation of coal mines, for well permits, for well registration, for distance requirements, for well casing requirements, for safety device requirements, for storage reservoir obligations, for well bonding requirements, for a Well Plugging Restricted Revenue Account to enforce oil and gas well plugging requirements, for the creation of an Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board, for oil and gas well inspections, for enforcement and for penalties," in preliminary provisions, further providing for definitions; and, in general requirements, further providing for protection of water supplies- submitted March 2011".

The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:

Section 1. Section 103 of the act of December 19, 1984 (P.L.1140, No.223), known as the Oil and Gas Act, is amended by adding a definition to read:

Section 103. Definitions.

The following words and phrases when used in this act shall have the meanings given to them in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:

* * *

"Unconventional well." A bore hole drilled or being drilled for the purpose of or to be used for producing oil or gas from a geologic formation existing below the base of the Elk Sandstone or its geologic equivalent stratigraphic interval where oil or gas generally cannot be produced at economic flow rates or in economic volumes except by wells stimulated by hydraulic fracture treatments, a horizontal well bore or by using multilateral well bores or other techniques to expose more of the formation of the well bore.

* * *

Section 2. Section 208(d) of the act is amended and the section is amended by adding subsections to read:

Section 208. Protection of water supplies.

* * *

(c.1) In the instance where the well is an unconventional well, unless rebutted by one of the five defenses established in subsection (d), it shall be presumed that a well operator is responsible for the pollution of a water supply that is within 2,500 feet of the oil or gas well, where the pollution occurred within 24 months after the completion of drilling or alteration of such well.

(d) In order to rebut the presumption of liability established in subsection (c), the well operator must affirmatively prove one of the following five defenses:

(1) The pollution existed prior to the drilling or alteration activity as determined by a predrilling or prealteration survey.

(2) The landowner or water purveyor refused to allow the operator access to conduct a predrilling or prealteration survey.

(3) The water supply is not within 1,000 feet of the well or, in the case of an unconventional well, not within 2,500 feet of the well.

(4) The pollution occurred more than six months after completion of drilling or alteration activities or, in the case of an unconventional well, the pollution occurred more than 24 months after the completion of drilling or alteration activities.

(5) The pollution occurred as the result of some cause other than the drilling or alteration activity.

* * *

(e.1) (1) At least 30 days prior to commencing a well drilling operation, the unconventional well operator shall survey, sample and analyze the quality and flow of water from any wells, springs or other water sources located within 2,500 feet of the proposed oil or gas well. The water well, spring or other water source to be tested shall be a supply that is utilized by a landowner or water purveyor for human consumption, domestic animals or other general use.

(2) The unconventional well operator shall utilize a laboratory approved by the department to perform the water supply analysis.

(3) The unconventional well operator shall within five days of receipt of the test results provide this information in writing to the landowner or water purveyor.

(4) In the event the landowner or water purveyor rejects the offer to have the water supply tested or denies access to the landowner's or water purveyor's property for the test to be conducted, the unconventional well operator shall not be required to meet the provisions of this subsection.

(5) The performance or excused performance of a water supply test under this subsection shall in no way prohibit the unconventional well operator from commencing drilling operations, provided the appropriate permit approvals are obtained.

(e.2) (1) Upon the completion of drilling activities and for a period of 24 months thereafter, the unconventional well operator, upon written request of the landowner or water purveyor, shall conduct a follow-up survey and analysis of the quality and flow of water from any wells, springs or other water sources initially tested by the well operator under subsection (e.1). The unconventional well operator shall not be required to conduct such follow-up test more than once in a 12-month period. The unconventional well operator's duty to conduct follow-up testing shall end 24 months after the completion of drilling activities.

(2) The unconventional well operator shall provide written notice to the landowner or water purveyor of the right to request follow-up tests.

(3) The unconventional well operator shall obtain and analyze the water samples in accordance with methods established by the department. All follow-up tests shall be conducted by a laboratory certified by the department to perform such testing.

(4) The unconventional well operator shall, within five days of receipt of the test results, provide this information in writing to the landowner or water purveyor.

(5) In the event the landowner or water purveyor rejects the offer to have a follow-up water supply test or denies access to the landowner's or water purveyor's property for the test to be conducted, the unconventional well operator shall not be required to meet the provisions of this subsection.

(6) The performance or excused performance of a follow-up water supply test under this subsection shall in no way prohibit the unconventional well operator from proceeding with a drilling operation, provided the appropriate permit approvals are obtained."

1. The selection of the target formation for this new legislation may not be clear - it may be wise to a more generalized description of the target area, vertical and formation targets, and regional target.  By selecting this target, it appears that the legislation would require more baseline testing for unconventional oil and gas development below a shallow gas deposit in parts of Pennsylvania.   I think this may be short cited.   I believe it may be wise to clarify the intent of the legislation and target - such as Upper Devonian. 

2. I believe that this legislation should apply to both shallow and deep wells and it appears that this does not address the issues related to coal bed methane gas.

3. Shallow vertical wells are hydrofractured and it would be my opinion that shallow vertical wells that are closer to the freshwater aquifer that are more likely to impact the freshwater aquifer, cause saline water to migrate vertically, or to cause methane gas to migrate along casing or more abundant shallow near vertical fractures.

4. It is my understanding that hydraulic fracturing may temporarily open existing fractures to a distance of about 1500 feet.   Therefore, a 1500 feet to 2000 feet would be reasonable.

5. Since it takes about 500 to 1000 feet to turn from a vertical to horizontal well, a distance of at least 2500 feet from each horizontal boring appears reasonable. 

6. Timing - I like the 2 year window.

7. I am a little concerned that we seem to forget we have a host of surface activities that are not related to natural gas development that may impact a private well, such as: other private wells, gasoline stations, pipelines, surface spills, industrial sites, old landfills, landfills, "improper disposal of household hazards, and much more. 

8. I am a little concerned that we also seem to forget that in many cases private wells already have poor water quality that is natural.  To be honest - it appears that some of the reported problems with discolored water, iron, manganese, and other contaminants is related to natural changes in groundwater quality or induced changes because of nuisance related bacteria because of poor private well construction and placement.

9.  Conventional well distance should be increased to at least 1500 feet and unconventional well extended to 2500 feet (2yrs) and 3000 feet (6 months).  To be honest - many drilling companies are conducting baseline testing at 4000 to 5250 feet.

10.  The 30 days prior to drilling requirement could be interpreted to mean only data collected within this time frame is valid.  Since many private well owners may want to conduct their own baseline analysis, this may create a burden to private well owners if data they collect as a baseline is more than 30 days prior to drilling.  Private well owners can not control drilling schedules.  This provision may also prevent or discourage drilling companies from conducting larger regional baseline testing - some companies are conducting baseline testing at 4000 to 5250 feet, but in most cases this is over 30 days prior to drilling.  I would say that baseline testing is more likely conducted within 6 months of drilling the well.  (Wording does not appear to be clear).

11. The well operator, in all cases, will you a laboratory certified by the state to conduct analysis using approved methods and chain-of-custody documentation. 

12.  The provision for access has been abused - in some cases I had heard rumors that some private wellowners would given virtually no notice of intent to sample.  This may not be the common practice, but it appears to be occurring.  Also, this appears to ignore that are region consist of a large number of seasonal dwellings with individuals living in either other states or other parts of the Commonwealth.

13. Some provisions should apply to both conventional and unconventional wells.  The drilling company should be required to conduct a detailed predrilling and post-drilling baseline survey and then every 6 months be required to conduct a "screening test".  The screening test would be for general water quality.  Prior to the end of the 2 year period, a detailed post drilling test would be required.  With respect to the screening test, this could be the baseline parameters recommended by the PADEP, plus specific parameters associated with that region.

14.  Private well owners have the right to report potential well problems and complaints to PADEP.  The homeowner should not be required to contact the drilling company, the homeowner or well owner should notify PADEP.  This will ensure that problems are identified and corrected.  In addition, PADEP can then charge the well drilling company for the cost of conducting the testing and field evaluation or use the funds posted by a bond.

15. Bonding - the company should post a bond to cover the cost of the post testing, including manpower, if they fail to perform this work.

16. The provisions do not seem to address springs, watercourses, etc.  Please remember our groundwater and surfacewater resources are connected.

17. The natural gas company working a region should help fund and support a watershed based real-time water quality monitoring network for surfacewater systems and it may be advisable for the company.

The natural gas companies should be required to provide the homeowners results in the following formats hardcopy, pdf file, and electronic copy.

Please support the Wilkes University Citizen Groundwater and Surfacewater Database

Please support the Pocono Northeast RC&D Council - Private Well Owner Improvement and Rehabiliation Program - New Program being tested in 10 county area of PA.  If succcessful this should be expanded throughout PA.

Just my thoughts


Brian Oram, Professional Geologist

Direct access to HB 895