Case Study 4 | Natural Gas Region / Water is Fizzy


The Mountains of Pennsylvania - Natural Gas Country. Wyoming County, Pennsylvania - North of Meshoppen, PA.


Homeowner's Lake House Has Fizzy Water

Level 1 Observational Testing / Water Issues

1. The lake House is not regularly used, and in most cases, the homeowners did not drink the water.

2. No Baseline Testing other than some historic testing for coliform Bacteria and Nitrate.

3 The water appeared to change and get a salty taste indicating Total Dissolved Solids, and there were a lot of gas bubbles; the homeowner was concerned it was Methane.

4. Well - no drilling log - located in a river valley near a lake - well over 400 feet deep.

Fizzy Water
(You Have GOT Methane)

Gas bubbles dissipated in less than 1 minute. LEL over the top of a water bottle - 30%

Evaluation Inspection

1. Collected a water sample, measured water quality in the field, and sent a sample to the laboratory.

Testing Results

1. Methane - 17.3 mg/L (above the action level of 2 mg/L)

2. Ethane - < 0.01 mg/L Propane - < 0.02 mg/L

3. Barium - 3.3 mg/L (Elevated)

4. Strontium - 1.8 mg/L Total Hardness - 61 mg/L

5. Total Dissolved Solids - 760 mg/L (Elevated)

6. Chloride - 390 mg/L (Elevated)

7. Sodium - 264 mg/L (Salty Taste)

8. Nitrate - < 0.5 mg/L (OK)

9. pH 7.8

10. Total Coliform Bacteria - Absent (OK)


1. The well appears to be impacted by saline water.

2. Homeowner First Question - Was this caused by Marcellus Shale Drilling?  My answer - I do not know because there was no baseline testing ever done on this well and the only testing was for Total Coliform and Nitrate and both currently meet the drinking water standard.


1. No Baseline Testing Data or even historic testing data other than Total Coliform and Nitrate.

2. No gas development within 2500 feet at this time, but drilling in the past.

3. After excavating to find the well and expose the top of the well (the top of a well should not be buried), we extended the top of the well casing above the ground surface. The static water level was very high, there was no evidence of bubbles in the water, and the well headspace lower explosion limit (LEL) was 1 to 2 %. When we purged the well we discovered that the water level dropped rather quickly,there were intermittent discolored water events, the LEL increased to 5 to 10 %, and the well was able to pump at a rate of over 20 gpm. The methane out-gassing appeared to increase as the water level was reduced in the borehole. 

We conducted testing and determined that the well water had a problem with iron-reducing bacteria and when we removed the pump we found the pump and drop piping were coated with iron and manganese oxides. We surveyed the well with a camera and found bioslimes and other chemical coatings. We also made a conductivity/temperature profile of the well and found a saline water seep near the bottom of the well where it appears the formation went from a grayish-brown sandstone to a reddishbrown siltstone /shale. When we put the well back in service, we re-purged the well. It appears that, because of the cleaning, the static water level was higher and the well drawdown was not as excessive as previously observed.

4. My hypothesis:  It appears that the well was drilled too deep into a saline aquifer and,  because of the lack of maintenance of the wellbore, a chemical/biological scale formed that reduced the specific capacity of the well resulting in more drawdown. The combination of the lack of maintenance and the more frequent use of the water caused the water level to drop in the well to the point that the water in the saline aquifer was permitted to enter the wellbore and the well. This resulted in the increased salt content and methane.

5. We recommended the following:  Reduce the well pumping rate and raise the well pump. Consider sealing the base of the well with cement grout, raising the casing of the well to at least 18 inches above grade, and installing a properly vented well cap that would permit methane to be released into the outside air, dropping it to  a level in the water that would not impact humans.

Treatment Action

1. We recommended that the homeowner contact the PADEP to conduct an Investigation: Under Oil and Gas Law- Section 78.89 the code states “When an operator or owner is notified of or otherwise made aware of a POTENTIAL natural gas migration incident, the PADEP may require the natural gas operator to conduct an investigation.

2. We recommended the following:  Reduce the well pumping rate, raise the well pump, raise the casing of the well to at least 18 inches above grade, and install a properly vented well cap that would permit methane to be released into the outside air such that the gas would not impact humans.

3. After a more complete investigation and a discussion with a local professional, we recommended attempting to seal the lower portion of the well that appeared to be acting as the conduit for the methane gas and saline water.


Had the homeowner spent $300 on Baseline Testing, we could have provided an answer. That's why we stress the importance of not waiting to have a baseline test. If you're interested in getting Baseline Testing done, Contact Us and we'll connect you with a Water Professional.

No items found.

Additional Resources

Get Informed

No items found.

Get Tested

Level 1
Level 2
No items found.
Level 3
No items found.
Level 4

Get Treatment

Short Term
No items found.
No items found.

Get Tools

Get Training