The development of the natural gas reserve within the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania has created a “gold rush” like phenomenon and has resulted in oil and gas companies from across the country flocking to large portions of the Commonwealth. However, the development of this natural resource has also come with its share of associated problems and concerns. At the forefront of these concerns is the potential for groundwater pollution. Most, if not all, of the concerns regarding groundwater pollution that are associated with the production of the Marcellus Shale to date have been focused on the practice of hydraulic fracturing or (fracking). Fracking is a process that involves the pumping of a high volume of fluid, made up of largely water and usually sand, under high pressure down the gas well until the targeted formation fractures, or cracks. The fracking process results in the free flow of natural gas through the now more permeable cracked formation into the gas well, thus enhancing the overall production and economic viability of the gas well.
While there has been a lot of public awareness regarding fracking, there are other potential threats to groundwater presented by the development of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. One of the most serious and dangerous potential threats to the groundwater is the potential for the occurrence of a stray gas migration. Stray gas migration occurs when natural gas escapes from the gas well or is redirected by the gas well and subsequently travels along fractures in the bedrock and through permeable soils and groundwater. The stray gas can then enter into a building through cracks in foundations and basement walls, along pipes, and through drinking water wells. When stray gas enters your house or drinking water well, it presents the risk of a potential explosion that could have severe consequences such as bodily injury or even death. Stray gas migration incidents occur more than most people are aware and can occur from various sources, including a leaking gas well. Occasionally a gas migration occurs not from the gas that is actually being produced by the gas well, but rather by the creation of pathway that had previously not existed prior to the drilling of the gas well linking the gas present in shallower formations into the fresh groundwater zones or the fractured bedrock.
It is important to understand that there are things that can be done to help protect the groundwater on your property. For instance, measures to help protect the ground water on your property can be taken during the leasing process or by being active in the gas well permitting process.
If you would like to know more about fracking and/or stray gas migration click on the links below to learn more, or contact an environmental attorney at the Quinn Law Firm.