UPDATE (4/17/12. 8:30 am ET): Interesting discovery here from a few Franklin Forks residents who spent some time recently digging into the history of naturally occurring methane in their town. Visiting the local historical society, these folks unearthed a newspaper story from 1921 (!) declaring that natural gas had been discovered at a depth of less then 200 feet in town. The article (featured below) indicates that visitors could “see the gas bubbling up through the water” — roughly 85 years prior to any Marcellus development in the area.
A few miles up the road from Dimock, Pennsylvania, sits Franklin Forks, a small rural community almost impossible to find on a map. Recently, this community has received some unwanted attention from individuals looking to stop responsible natural gas development. This group, from out of town, has published a video on YouTube where, they claim, water uncontrollably spraying out of residential water well is from hydraulic fracturing. While DEP investigates this situation, the anti-gas community and the media, for that matter, have deemed this the next Dimock. Is it really?
Some Key Facts That Might Change Your Mind:
- The closest natural gas well to the property is more than 4,000 feet away. The next closest pad is at least a mile and a half away. The village is situated just down the road from Salt Springs State Park, an area with a long history of bubbling methane in the water – click here for a video of the spring.The map below details the approximate distance from each well site to the water well in question.
- Last Fall, Franklin Forks, specifically the property in question, experienced two separate 100-year floods within 8 days. In each case, the water well in question was completely submerged. Furthermore, over the last several years, according to long-time residents, Franklin Forks has experienced other significant floods and some minor ones; averaging at least one flood a year. Each time, the water well has been under or surrounded by flood water. Here is a picture following Hurricane Irene:
- The residents of the house in question have only lived on the property for 15 months. Before they took up residence, the property owner installed a new water well in 2006 after the original water well went bad. Long time residents, several with more than 30 years in Franklin Forks, share stories of poor water quality, sulfur smells, spitting faucets and discolored water. The most consistent comment is “no one drinks the water here and that’s been going on for years, long before gas drilling even came to the county.” In fact, a neighbor from across the street, had a vent installed on his water well long before natural gas development entered the area.
- DEP has not reached a final determination for the cause of the activity at the water well and is still conducting its investigation. In the meantime, DEP did ask WPX Energy, the closest natural gas operator to Franklin Forks, to help with its investigation. Responding quickly to the DEP’s request for assistance, WPX Energy conducted an indoor air quality screening in December 2011, and then conducted a water quality test, venting, and a visual inspection of the water well in question when the DEP asked for help again mid March, 2012.
- WPX Energy conducted two different air quality screenings, in fact. The first, last December, determined the house in question did not have an explosive concentration of methane. The screening showed a methane concentration less than 1-2% lower explosive level (LEL) within the home. A separate more recent screening, examined methane concentrations in the house again and in the surrounding homes within a 500ft radius around the house. Again no significant methane levels were detected in the home.
- Engineers for WPX Energy were able to recreate the water pushing up through the water well and observed what appeared to be mechanical elements of the well moving within the water well, all suggesting it might be a mechanical issue with the well. However, WPX’s request to evaluate the mechanical workings of the water well has been stalled by the resident’s lawyer. WPX engineers have over thirty years of well and pump experience and in other parts of the country, they have seen similar water well eruptions due to mechanical issues, and so it only makes sense that this should be investigated.
- WPX Energy voluntarily supplied water, contrary to what an out-of-town activist and the resident have claimed in this video – People Bring Bottle Water. Unfortunately, for about three days, the one resident under the guidance of their lawyer, did go without water because they refused to allow WPX on the property in order to service the installed water tank and pump. As additional proof WPX Energy is committed to helping its neighbors, the other two residents involved in the DEP investigation accepted WPX Energy’s offer for water assistance and neither of these households have associated their water well problems with hydraulic fracturing nor attempted to bar WPX Energy from helping the DEP investigate.
There are so many questions in regard to what exactly is happening with this resident’s water well. The DEP is working hard to find an answer while WPX Energy assists in the investigation. One would hope our friends on the other side of this debate will stop exploiting this family. Until a full investigation is conducted, to include the inspection of the mechanical workings of the water well and an evaluation of the long history of poor water quality in Franklin Forks; it is premature to jump to any conclusion.