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Methane Filtration May Be Replacing Buffalo Tanks in Area

Wyalusing Area Water Contamination Becomes County Issue

The methane migration problems and impact on water wells in the Wyalusing area, notably in Sugar Run and on Welles Mountain, were brought to the attention of the Bradford County Commissioners at their weekly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 24.

Diane Ward, who has been an activist in getting the word out about the potential impact on local drinking water from natural gas well drilling and fracking, displayed a large poster board with photos. The photos showed homes with buffalo tanks and well vents in the Wyalusing area, including a number whose predicaments have been covered in the Rocket-Courier this past summer and fall.

One of those residences pictured with a buffalo tank for household water belongs to Don and Sharon Pickett in Sugar Run. During the course of the discussion, Ward was informed that the Picketts' methane contamination issue had reportedly been cleared by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

"Good," said Ward. "I hope that is true."

A check with Don Pickett this week revealed that even though there has been significant improvement in the methane presence on his property, the most recent pronouncement from those doing the monitoring is that "it is within reasonable limits" at both his home water source and at that of a trailer on his property. Pickett, whose home overlooks the river, made news this summer because of bubbling water from methane just offshore from his property in the river. Next came venting and monitoring at several residences in the area and, soon after that, the buffalo tanks.

Pickett said on Tuesday of this week that the people doing the monitoring are contracted by Chesapeake Energy, and he feels he has been treated fairly and that they have been responsive to his situation. However, it doesn't look as if he'll be going back to his well for drinking in the near future. There are still test results coming from recent samples on his well water, other than the methane component.

In the meantime, the plan is to build a methane separator, or filtration system, between his well and his house. That would consist, he said, of an eight-by-eight building that will be built and maintained by Chesapeake Energy out of their corporate pocketbook. The methane readings have been described as within reasonable limits for two months now, he said, but it is not necessarily a done deal. This is apparently why they are proceeding with a methane separator system. This is also the course being taken at several residences on Paradise Road, filtering water coming out of the well, and a couple of the filtration buildings have already been built.

Pickett said that should the methane migration on his property be resolved, he would have the option of keeping the filtration system or letting them take it out so he can pipe the water directly from his well. If he opts to keep the separator building as a preventative from that point on, it would be his responsibility, including its maintenance.

As far as the methane in the river, he reported that "it's still bubbling, even with the river as high as it is." He said another location off the Tony Adams property where the methane had been bubbling this summer is not so evident now.

At last week's commissioners' meeting, Ward said she wanted to underline that contaminated drinking problem is an issue in Bradford County, despite testimony from Commissioner Doug McLinko before the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) that gas drilling is proceeding smoothly in his county. McLinko had referred to an estimated 600 gas wells drilled in the county, with an additional 900 already permitted for drilling in the near future. McLinko commented at the hearing on the safety of water impoundments and extractions of water from the Susquehanna River and several creeks, including the Wyalusing Creek. However, Ward feels he was negligent in not commenting on contamination of drinking water sources in parts of the county.

Ward, a long-time Secretary/Treasurer of Standing Stone Township, ran in 2006 as the Democratic candidate for state representative for the 110th District seat occupied by Tina Pickett. She has taken an activist role in speaking out about potential environmental issues related to the natural gas industry, and testified recently at the conditional use hearing for the Hawbaker application in Wyalusing Township.

Bubbling water doesn't always signify there is methane coming out of the ground or water, but you can't blame people for coming to that conclusion nowadays. The Picketts learned that a number of weeks ago when he looked outside at his lawn, which had some standing water due to rain and a thaw at the time, and saw an unwelcome sight.

"I looked out the kitchen window and I yelled at Sharon, ?The yard's bubbling,'" he recounted.

Someone had just checked it out that morning, so he called Chesapeake and by the time the guy with the gas stiffer got there, the bubbling had stopped. They had also figured out by then that the source of the bubbles was the combination of their septic system and the saturated ground.

"When I had Sharon flush the toilet, it started bubbling," he said with a chuckle.

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