COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA
Dept. of Environmental Protection
Commonwealth News Bureau
Room 308, Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg PA., 17120
Study Points to Tioga
Junction Storage Reservoirs as Source of Migrating Gas
5 July 2007
MEADVILLE -- The Department of Environmental Protection
announced today that a U.S. Geological Survey study has found that
the natural gas present in some Tioga County water wells is a
chemical that matches the gas found in three storage field
reservoirs next to Tioga Junction, which are owned and operated by
Dominion Transmission and PP&L.
The department credited the U.S. Geological Survey’s use of an
isotope chemistry technique for providing the breakthrough in
determining the source of the natural gas.
“The USGS study has helped shed some light on the origins of this
migrating natural gas,” DEP Regional Director Kelly Burch said.
“The study points to gas from
nearby storage reservoirs as the source of gas in 17 water wells
along the eastern edge of the gas fields in Tioga Junction.
“These findings will help us determine what actions are necessary on
the part of the companies to fix the problem and prevent any future
gas migration,” said Burch.
“This information will also
help the department determine the extent to which these companies
are responsible for the contaminated water wells.”
The department will meet with Dominion and PP&L to outline the
firms’ responsibilities for mitigating any health and safety
concerns associated with the affected wells.
The companies must also take
corrective action to halt the gas migration, and inventory other
water wells in the area to determine whether additional
contamination problems exist that were not detected by the USGS
DEP first became aware of the natural gas in local water wells as it
investigated a complaint in 2001.
While attempting to find the
source of gas, DEP plugged four old gas wells in the area.
Additionally, the department
worked with the gas storage field operators to have another five gas
wells plugged in the eastern part of the companies’ respective
storage fields near Tioga Junction.
None of these efforts resolved the gas migration problem, so DEP
invested $158,000 to investigate the issue further through the USGS
study that began in 2005.
“Isotope chemistry allowed us to define a characteristic ‘signature’
for carbon and hydrogen in the gases,” said Kevin Breen, a USGS
hydrologist and lead author of the study.
“While the gas signatures ruled
out landfill gases and marsh gas of microbial origin as likely
contributors, the weight of the evidence points to storage-reservoir
gas as the likely origin of the gas found in Tioga Junction water
USGS inventoried 91 wells in a 50-square mile area around Tioga
Junction to determine the pattern of gas occurrence.
Of that group, the 39 wells
found to have the highest concentration of natural gas were further
tested for chemical and isotopic composition.
“While we work to shutdown the source of the gas, we encourage
residents to take precautionary measures,” Burch said.
“Residents should vent
basements and other confined spaces where large volumes of water are
used, like laundry rooms.
Venting can reduce the risk of
explosion and fire in homes where methane has been detected and may
DEP also recommends that all water wells be equipped with a working
vent. Plumbing companies can help homeowners with the procedure, or
residents can contact DEP at 814-332-6860 for more information.
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COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA