From: Scott Detrow, NPR Topics: Environment
Published August 28, 2012 08:34 AM

Methane Making An Appearance In Pa. Water Supplies

Mike and Nancy Leighton's problems began on May 19, just as Mike was settling in to watch the Preakness Stakes. A neighbor in Leroy Township, Pa., called Mike and told him to check the water well located just outside his front door.


"And I said I'll be down in 15 minutes. I wanted to see the race," Leighton said. But as the horses were racing, Leighton's well was overflowing. Typically, there's between 80 to 100 feet of headspace between the top of the well and its water supply. But when Leighton went outside, the water was bubbling over the top.

Down the road, Ted and Gale Franklin's water well had gone dry. When water started coming out later that week, the liquid was "black as coal," according to Gale.

Since then, both families have been dealing with methane-contaminated water supplies, as well as dozens of mysterious, flammable gas puddles bubbling up on their properties.

Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection blames a nearby fracking operation. They say methane gas has leaked out of the well, which is operated by Chesapeake Energy, and into the Leightons' and Franklins' water supplies.

The danger goes beyond contaminated water. In a letter to both families detailing test results and preliminary findings, state regulators wrote "there is a physical danger of fire or explosion due to the migration of natural gas water wells." Chesapeake has installed ventilation systems at the two water wells, but the letter warns, "it is not possible to completely eliminate the hazards of having natural gas in your water supply by simply venting your well."

Nancy Leighton said the letter made her "a little nervous," pointing out both families heat their homes with wood stoves and plan to do so this winter, regardless of whether or not the gas leaks have gone away. "What are we going to do? We don't have any other options," Gail Franklin says.

Article continues at NPR

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