Responsible Drilling Alliance

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22
Apr

Water Contamination: Tioga Co. Landowners Speak Out

The prepared statement below was read by Jeff Richardson at a public meeting at the Gmeiner Center in Wellsboro, PA on 8/28/12.

 

Hello and Good Evening. We are Jeff and Tina Richardson and we moved into Tioga County in 1993.

We are here tonight in part to talk about what is happening to us regarding natural gas drilling. We have no background in law, nor in any field related to the natural gas industry. We are here as concerned citizens. We hope that what we are going through isn’t happening to others. For us, along with environmental, health and safety concerns, there are also the issues of the impact on property value and on quality of life. We want to give you a brief summary of a portion of what we have been dealing with. I’m going to read a short statement about our situation and concerns. Then, a representative from Responsible Drilling Alliance will speak. After which, we invite anyone to speak on their experiences or concerns.

First, we want to say that we are NOT against drilling, but are extremely concerned that it is done safely.

In February 2010, when we learned of the planned drilling activity that was to take place next to our property, with the pad just over 1,000 feet from our well, we feared we could be impacted by the drilling because it would be so close to our water supply; environmental and health issues were our first concern. Then came the decision of signing or not signing a lease. We asked ourselves – if we didn’t sign on, would the natural gas be extracted from our property without us getting compensated for it? We wanted to protect ourselves as much as possible. We sought legal advice. We were advised to sign a non-surface lease with several addendums for added protection. Some of the issues we addressed in our lease and addendums included:

 

– Water quality

– No pipeline, no access roads

– No seismic testing

– No storage of gas in any formation underlying our property

– No automatic renewal of lease

and,

– Non-deduct royalties

 

After much thought, we signed on, requesting VERY extensive baseline water tests from the drilling company – East Resources – before doing so. We thought we had done what we could to protect ourselves and our property and had only to be concerned with the drilling site right next to us. However, we have come to learn that you do not have to live right next to a site to be impacted by its operations. In our case, that meant our water well became contaminated from a drilling site nearly 3/4 of a mile away.

Back in January of this year (2012), we noticed a change in the taste of our water. In February, we called DEP. They promptly came out and began testing our water. Tests indicated elevated manganese and methane at a COMBUSTIBLE LEVEL. In fact, when DEP was doing the testing and the well cap was removed, we could hear our water bubbling.

In May, DEP determined that gas well drilling had impacted our water supply. Methane contamination was bad enough news to us. But recently, after noticing increased truck traffic at the pad, we called Shell and DEP to inquire about the activity. We learned that even though the well had not been repaired, fracking would still take place. We became even more seriously concerned for our well-being.

We are still unclear as to the explanation provided by both Shell and DEP as to why it was ok to proceed. Our concern is that other contaminants may migrate into our water because the well is not repaired. We were informed by Shell – just yesterday – that fracking is complete at this time. However, it is unclear to us as to how long it could take possible contaminants to migrate. This will be an ongoing concern for us if further drilling operations occur at the pad.

In addressing our water problems, there was a need for immediate water supply, as well as a long term solution. Bottled water was delivered regularly. The offer of water buffaloes was given, but we declined because we thought, if having a filtration system installed, it would be resolved promptly. We would later come to realize that this would not be the case. There was also the option of drilling a new well. We decided not to take this risk because it was our understanding that a new well may not provide a different outcome. We did not want to further disturb the aesthetics of our property for something that might not work. It is bad enough looking out our windows every day and seeing the well vent. We decided to move forward with a filtration system.

Discussions with Shell regarding the filtration system were (and still are) very time consuming.

Regarding location, it seems to us that Shell was trying to use the easiest solution for themselves, with little regard for us:

 

– First, Shell wanted to put the system in our basement – we were VERY uncomfortable with that option because of the methane being brought into the house to be separated out.

– The next offer was that a system be installed in a work trailer to be placed in our driveway. We did not accept this either.

– Finally, we agreed on a shed to be used to house the filtration system.

 

Then came the discussions on what was to be filtered out. Another time-consuming, tiring situation because what we were told would be included kept changing – from methane, to methane and manganese, to the newly developing changes in our water (namely, odor and increased sediment) and back again to just methane – the answers kept changing.

Twice we halted the construction of the system because we could not get a solid answer on what was to be filtered out. But, JUST VERY RECENTLY, this was resolved – or so we thought. Now, because of the unrepaired well being fracked, we are very concerned there may be further contamination issues to be addressed.

Another reason we halted the system construction was because we needed to get additional legal advice. It is our understanding from Shell that once the system is installed, WE would be responsible for maintaining it. We needed more information about the system and any expenses that WE may incur that Shell would not be covering.

Regarding water tests, our experience is that we’ve had to continually request results from Shell before receiving them. Until very recently, it has been frustrating having to track down information for our own water and not know what is going on or if progress is being made since having a well vent installed.

We also feel it is imperative to have ongoing water tests, especially if an unrepaired well is being fracked. Again, methane migrated into our water, so we have serious concern that other problem substances could migrate as well. We believe these tests should be extensive, should be done by a company NOT used by Shell and feel Shell should be paying for them. Or DEP should be doing regular testing of our well for any possible migrating contaminants. Neither is the case at this time.

We are also concerned with the affect this situation may have on our property value and the salability of our home. When it comes time to sell in the future, we fear it may be difficult to do so

 

– because potential buyers may have to incur the cost of extensive water tests to insure that the water is safe

and,

– because of the well vent, the filtration system and the methane detectors throughout our home. We feel potential buyers may be scared off by these rather than comforted by them.

 

When Shell implied that they would address our property value if we were prepared to move, we became extremely upset. THIS IS OUR HOME. Why should we have to uproot our life on a timetable convenient to Shell and not us?

Regarding our quality of life, Shell has taken from us our peace of mind. We feel our way of life, on our own property, has been devastated because of several factors:

 

* Anxiety

– Anxiety about possible further contamination issues from the unrepaired well and also from the well next to us that is not yet developed.

and

– Anxiety over the salability of our property in the future, when WE want to move. These thoughts are with us every day.

 

* Frustration

– Frustration with repeatedly being told that someone else would be addressing our concerns.

and

– Frustration in dealing with conflicting information.

 

*Outrage

– Outrage that we are now put in the position of carrying the burden of protecting our water supply and property value in a situation we did not create. We understand that problems with drilling can occur; but in our case, we feel correcting the impact of these is Shell’s responsibility, not ours.

 

* Lost Time

– A substantial amount of time is having to be spent in dealing with all of this; time which instead should be spent doing the things we choose, not fighting this fight.

 

So, in conclusion, we feel that Shell has little concern for the effect their operations are having on our lives. We did not even get an apology from Shell until mentioning it to them. At first, we saw our situation as an opportunity for Shell to show us that they act responsibly and also in good faith. Instead, this has become an ongoing battle for us. We now feel compelled to speak out and use the public forum to inform as many people as we can, both inside and outside of our community, that this could happen to them. We hope this will not be the case.

Please remember, you do not have to have a lease or live next to a well pad to be adversely impacted. Thank you.


Contact: Jeff Richardson 570-662-5700

 

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