In 2008 in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the hot button Fracking area became Dimock, PA. Dimock Township is a township located in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 1,497 at the 2010 census. The school building for the Elk Lake School District is located near the village of Elk Lake in the township in 2016 the population was about 1418.
You may or may not know, but this web portal has been in development for about 35+ years. The portal started as part of a local Pennsylvania based "Citizen Monitoring Effort" for private well owners and watershed training for the Susquehanna River Tri-State Association when Mr. Oram was an undergraduate student at Wilkes University. During this period of time, Mr. Oram was active in grassroots citizen based monitoring, launching a private well owner water testing program, and being involved with education / outreach programs to the public.
From the period from 1989 to 2009, this effort was continued and expanded to include working on citizen based programs throughout the World and launching a worldwide water testing program for private well owners and city water customers through the implementation of the Center for Environmental Quality at Wilkes University. This work ultimately lead to the Water-research.net web portal in 1990 which was the precursor this current KnowYourH2O web portal.
During this period of time, we have always been engage on projects that have been controversial. In all of these situations, our primary mission and objective was to be the fact based professional and educator.
IN 2009, the Natural Gas Development and Unconventional Shale Gas Development took a foothold in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Up to that point, I thought I had experience controversial projects, misinformation in the media, and spin on all sides of an issue, I was wrong.
When unconventional natural gas development came to Northeastern and the USA, the public was divided into three camps:
Anti-Natural Gas and Fossil FuelsPro-Natural Gas and Fossil FuelsOther Citizens that Wanted the Facts
By 2009, we had been conducting education programs in Northeastern Pennsylvania for about 20 years trying to get private well owners to get their water tested and encouraging citizens to support regulations that would establish private well construction standards. At that time the data we generated showed that about 50% of private wells in Pennsylvania were considered non-potable, i.e, not drinkable because of total coliform or E. coli., and about 20 to 30% of the wells had a secondary issues such as corrosive water, high iron or manganese, elevated copper/lead, arsenic, and in less than 3% of the cases saline water and methane. We were using GIS to educate the citizens on local hazards in their community that predate their awareness and active hazards that they might not be aware, such as that "leaky under ground fuel storage tank" at the gas station where you get your gas and morning beverage, donuts, etc. Well we started our fact based outreach and it hit:
Anti-Natural Gas and Fossil Fuel Group - Labelled the Program "Pro-Gas"Pro-Natural Gas and Fossil Fuel Group - Labelled the Program "Wait and See"Other Citizens that were not so sure were hungry for the facts.
Well Vanity Fair said this, "In Dimock, where more than 60 gas wells were drilled in a nine-square-mile area, all kinds of ugly things transpired after Cabot came to town."
I say the following, a combination of situations came together to create a situation where lots of finger pointing would occur:
1. Pennsylvania's unconventional well drilling regulations were rather young and many of the "University Geological Experts " thought that these unconventional gas wells could be constructed using 2 sections of grouted piping and there was difficulty grouting the productions wells because of shallow gas producing zones within the bedrock overlying the Marcellus Shale.
2. The extent of baseline testing was not adequate to really characterize the groundwater quality and in many cases the private wells were not tested for bacterial contamination.
3. The private wells servicing the citizens were constructed following no formal or uniform standard, the casing were not grouted, the thickness type and amount of casing was very limited, and most private well owners were not aware how their wells were actually constructed.
4. The region already had some private wells that were 200 to 500 feet deep with saline water and natural gas issues, but because of the rural nature of the area this was not commonly known even though there is a State Park called "Salt Springs State Park" where one or more of the buildings had been powered by natural gas dating back to the 1800s.
"The salt spring on the south side of Fall Brook is one of the salt springs for which the park is named. The first people to extract salt from the spring water were American Indians who traveled through the area during hunting expeditions. Numerous attempts were made by different entrepreneurs to develop the spring for commercial gain between 1795 and 1870. The brine obtained produced a high quality salt, but not enough could be coaxed out of the ground to yield a profit. Bubbles would rise to the surface and when touched with fire would flash like black powder. Efforts to strike oil at or near Salt Springs were also pursued, but with no success. In 1902, the North Penn Oil and Gas Company sunk a new test well just behind the Wheaton House, but plugged it after several months and left without explanation. When methane gas continued to seep up through the plug, a simple container was built at the top of the well to gather the escaping gas, which was then piped into the Wheaton home where it was used for cooking and lighting (Source)".
Therefore a combination of weaknesses created a situation that was made worse by the lack of trust, the twelve monkeys, and not always following the facts.
What the heck are the twelve monkeys?
Remember 2 sides - they have six monkeys (see, hear, and speak no evil about what you believe or your cause) and then three monkeys (see, hear, and post all evil about the other group). Like the misguide fool that I am and the peace maker I was raised to be, I thought I could help with facts and information to get to the truth.
My name is Brian Oram. I am a licensed professional geologist and soil scientist with over 30 years experience in applied earth and environmental sciences, and the founder of the KnowYourH2O website. I have conducted research and consulting projects related to acid mine drainage (AMD), mine drainage, lake and stream monitoring programs, wetland creation and monitoring, filtration plant performance evaluations, testing new point of use water treatment devices and systems, hydrogeological evaluations, geological investigations, soils testing, soil morphological evaluations, water well drilling and construction, drinking water testing, mail order water testing kit program, and land reclamation. I have also been involved with Citizen Monitoring and other Environmental Training Programs for groups within the United States, Europe, and even the former Soviet Union and has been involved with contamination cases related to gasoline, heating oil, road salt, saline water, gas migration, nitrates, sewage and much more.
For the record, I dislike the words fracking, frak, or frac to describe this one part of natural gas development, the actual process is called hydraulic fracturing and to be honest using the proper words helps to understand the process.
The main reasons:
1. It is not fact based and uses words that will inflame
2. For SciFi Fans, the "F" word in the series Battlestar Galactica was "Frak". This was a war between Man and the Machines created by man
3. The term Hydraulic Fracturing is a process and better describes this phase of the development process.
As part of our education outreach program, we have been reviewing the EPA Data generated for Dimock, Pennsylvania. The purpose of this review is to be a fact based review of the findings. The main goal is to understand the water testing results, identify water quality parameters of concern, with the hope of creating a resource to properly educate and inform other well owners. This is a fact based review of the data and we have made every effort to not make any formal judgments how a private well was or was not impacted.
The most frustrating part of this experience, for me, has been the lack of a fact-based review of the data. That is what you will find here - a fact based review with NO SPIN either way. I try not to make any judgments. The main goal of this evaluation is to understand the nature of the regional water quality and to provide a fact based review of the data. The results are compared to the EPA and Pennsylvania Drinking Water Standards. If no standard was available, we searched for a standard that has been established by another state or the World Health Organization.
First question is why? Because I do not have all the facts for each well for a number of reasons, which include inadequate or no baseline testing and lack of long-term information for each source. I was not on-site or part of the initial baseline testing or investigation, but I was invited on-site to witness the sampling that was conducted by the EPA. Therefore, the following is a review of this single sampling event.
Certified Baseline Testing Natural Gas Development - Submit a Request for Consultation with the KnowYourH20 Team. Contact Us