Nockamixon Township Peforms Baseline Water Tests

Scientists are beginning to sample wells and water sources in the township. It will serve as proof if the water is poisoned by gas drilling.

If Nockamixon’s groundwater is poisoned during natural gas extraction, officials will have the evidence.

Scientists with Princeton Hydro, a New Jersey-based water and wetlands resource management company, are traveling throughout the township this week to sample wells, streams, creeks and aquifers.

(Breathing Is Political extends its appreciation to The Intelligencer and Amanda Cregan for  allowing  me to re-print the following article which first appeared  August 18, 2009. The “Cabot property” referenced in the article is the one Leni Santoro and I visited during our River Road Trip.  A photo is viewable here.  Please note that the berm around the frack pool did not appear to be  more than three feet high and the  return fence (running perpendicular to the road) was no higher than  2-3 feet. Because so few people we met during our journey were cognizant of   drilling and hydraulic fracturing or the threat  they pose to our  aquifers and land,  I wanted  people here in the Upper Delaware Basin to know what some of   our sister communities  are doing  to protect themselves.)

By: AMANDA CREGAN Bucks County Courier Times
Scientists are beginning to sample wells and water sources in the township. It will serve as proof if the water is poisoned by gas drilling.

If Nockamixon’s groundwater is poisoned during natural gas extraction, officials will have the evidence.

Scientists with Princeton Hydro, a New Jersey-based water and wetlands resource management company, are traveling throughout the township this week to sample wells, streams, creeks and aquifers.

With a $25,000 grant, the Lower Delaware River Wild and Scenic Management Committee, a group of governmental representatives from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, voted in September to do the testing as a protective measure.

Delayed all summer by frequent rainstorms, scientists have completed testing water wells at nine homes and the Upper Bucks Regional EMS headquarters.

Now they’re roving the township, gathering 20 samples from creeks and streams. Overall, water data will stretch over a 300-square-mile region.

“We’re testing for a whole suite of chemical parameters,” said James P. Shallenberger, senior project manager for Princeton Hydro. “Right now, the objective is just to establish some base lines and sense what the water is like. If there is any drilling done, there will most likely be some follow up work closer to those drill sites.”

If the water was to become contaminated, the Lower Delaware River management committee argues, this baseline, pre-drilling data could be used to make the case that drilling was the cause.

“The baseline testing is extremely important. Because all the discussion we’ve had about accountability and liability, the onus is on us to show the integrity and clarity of our water and have documentation on it,” said the committee’s Pennsylvania chairwoman Nancy Janyszeski, who also serves as Nockamixon’s supervisor chairwoman.

Scientists are focusing their water testing on both sides of the former Cabot Industries property, she said.

The Cabot property on Beaver Run Road, just of Route 611 near Revere, is the only site in the gas drilling permit application stages at the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The 102-acre property was home to a specialty metals production operation. The site underwent a federal environmental cleanup in the early 1990s.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the Cabot site a clean bill of health.

The Lower Delaware River management committee is worried that one misstep at a drilling site in Nockamixon could spell disaster for its neighbors.

Township homeowners rely on private water wells and septic systems, and many are already grappling with a diminishing groundwater supply.

Natural gas is extracted thousands of feet below the surface via hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The process uses vast amounts of water, mixed with sand and other chemicals, injected into the ground under high pressure to create fractures in the rock and allow the oil or gas to be more easily withdrawn.

Like already-affected municipalities across the country, Nockamixon officials want the gas company to disclose what chemicals are being used, but it’s considered a trade secret and is exempted by federal law.

About 250 homeowners have signed leases with Michigan-based gas drilling company Arbor Resources. Nockamixon supervisors have asked Bucks County Court to overturn a decision by the township’s zoning hearing board, which decided Feb. 9 that township ordinances go too far in restricting drilling and agreed with Arbor officials that the state’s Oil and Gas Act trumps local regulations.

If groundwater is poisoned in the drilling process, the burden of proof will be with the gas company, said Shallenberger.

“The state rules put the burden of proof on the drilling company. If there is a problem or if someone else reports a water quality issue within six months that the drilling occurs, there is a presumption the drilling company is responsible for a change in water quality,” he said.

Although these samplings would serve as a before-and-after picture of Nockamixon water quality, it would bring little relief for homeowners suffering the consequences.

“Water is crucial resource for everyone,” he said.

Princeton Hydro’s water samples will be sent to the laboratory. Results are expected in a month.

August 18, 2009

7 thoughts on “Nockamixon Township Peforms Baseline Water Tests”

  1. I question the information in the Intel article. The permits issued for Nockamixon were for vertical wells. Nockamixon is not in the Marcellus formation where horizontal wells are used. As far as I have been able to determine there was no fracking proposed and no permits issued for drawing the water that would be required. Permits are required for the water in the Delaware basin.

    Do you have information to the contrary?

  2. Hi, JG. Although I don’t have a complete answer to your question, please review the information I’ve provided below. It appears the shale play application at issue in Nockamixon is in the Newark Basin/Lockatong Siltstone Shale rather than the Marcellus but I’ve forwarded your query to both the writer of the original report and others in the area who can respond more knowledgeably than I. Thank you for asking!

    Please see this at The Delaware RiverKeeper site:

    “Stone Energy, who drilled a vertical well in the Marcellus Shale in Wayne County, PA without DRBC approval and was notified that they were in violation of DRBC requirements, has submitted applications for a well and a water supply withdrawal from the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River, a tributary to the Delaware River.

    After being notified by DRBC of their requirements, Arbor Resources submitted applications for wells in a different shale formation in Nockamixon Township, Bucks County, PA where the company has signed leases and is expected to begin exploration.14

    In September DRBC notified Arbor Resources that they must receive DRBC approval before proceeding with gas well drilling in Nockamixon Township, Bucks County, PA where the company has signed leases and is expected to begin exploration.1

    Other well applications are in the works in Wayne County.

    This, from the 8-13-09 River Reporter story by reporter, Sandy Long:

    Those include the Andrews Forest Products water withdrawal site on the East Branch of the Delaware River in the Village of Hancock being proposed by Chesapeake Appalachia; the Matoushek/Stone Energy Corporation gas well in Clinton Township; a proposed Stone Energy Corporation water withdrawal site on the upper reaches of the West Branch of the Lackawaxen River; and a proposed Arbor Operating water withdrawal site in Bucks County in southeast Pennsylvania.

    And this from the DRBC (describing Arbor Operating’s 4-16-09 application to begin water withrawals in Nockamixon):

    An application for approval of a ground water withdrawal project to supply less than 100,000 total gallons of water for drilling, construction, and dust control associated with the applicant’s proposed Cabot #2 natural gas exploratory well and
    well pad. The exploratory well is proposed to be drilled to evaluate the hydrocarbon reserves within the Newark Basin/Lockatong Siltstone Shale in the area. The proposed withdrawal will come from an existing industrial supply well located on an adjacent neighboring property. The project is
    located in the Triassic-Age Lockatong Formation in the Rapp Creek Watershed in Nockamixon Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The site is located within the drainage area of the section of the non-tidal Delaware River known as the Lower Delaware, which is designated as Special Protection Waters.

    Basically, the DRBC has received applications for withdrawals in the Nockamixon area after they reminded the companies such applications were necessary.

  3. I think the next to last paragraph indicates that fracking is not proposed for the Cabot well. I don’t think the amount of water proposed would be enough for fracking operations.

    I’m dismayed that the discussion is fraught with misinformation, some, I fear purposely introduced, to frightened the local well owners. If no fracking is to be done then all the issues in the Intel article are non-existant – “vast amounts of water”, “other chemicals”, “high pressure”.

    Yes, well contamination can occur but there are over 60,000 wells in PA now and you seldom see any news stories about well contamination. Three hundred or more local residents have signed leases. They obviously don’t see well contamination as a significant risk. The drilling will take place on and around their land so they will be most likely to be affected rather than the naysayers in other areas.

  4. I agree that there is a significant amount of purposefully faulty information available. I hope you’d admit that the drilling companies have been guilty of that as we recently discovered during the IOGA-NY “informational” session in Rock Hill, NY.

    It’s why I work hard at Breathing to make sure questions like yours are answered as fully as possible.

    Although it’s possible that hydraulic fracturing applications are not the immediate concern in Nockamixon, given the Industry’s insistence that it is the most financially effective technology, I’m sure you understand the concern that opening Nockamixon to drilling of any kind raises the threat of the new technology being brought to bear.

    What we’re hearing from lessors in Dimock and elsewhere suggests that people signing leases are being blindsided by drilling companies which has led to them to not “see” the circumstantial evidence of risks that are surfacing all over the country and elsewhere. (Not to mention the EPA’s recent findings in Pavilion, Wyoming.)

    Would you at least admit that increasing numbers of lessors across the nation are beginning to seriously question their decisions to lease?

    As I stated, your questions have been forwarded to the original author of the piece for clarification.

    Thank you, Liz

  5. Penn State really needs to examine itself , have an energy policy of its own, and its resource management. In Delaware County, NY a methane plant, in conjunction with Cornell, has been in operation near super rural Walton, NY. If Iran opens up to businesses it has enough natural gas to pipe China and Russia (not that they need it) so I don’t see the global demand and $$ gas had previously attracted. Penn State could explore a geothermal plant but isn’t it sitting around waiting to be exploited, isn’t that just lazy? Ya know not everyone in pioneer days waited for matches to start a fire.

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