DEP: Cabot drilling caused methane in Lenox water wells
Methane in three private water wells in Lenox Twp. seeped there from a flawed natural gas well drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., state environmental regulators have found.
An investigation by the Department of Environmental Protection determined that the gas migrated from at least one of three Marcellus Shale wells drilled on the Stalter well pad about half a mile west of Interstate 81 in Susquehanna County.
The gas was found seeping into three water supplies beginning in August 2011. A fourth water well for a hunting cabin is still being evaluated, DEP spokesman Daniel Spadoni said.
Video taken from inside one of Cabot's gas wells showed that a string of steel casing meant to seal off the aquifer from gas and other contaminants was improperly constructed, according to a notice of violation sent to the company by DEP in September.
Methane was also found between the cemented strings of casing in all three gas wells on the Stalter pad, a sign state regulators view as evidence of flaws in a well's construction.
The dissolved methane in one nearby water supply jumped from .3 milligrams per liter before drilling began to 49 milligrams per liter on Aug. 16 and 57 milligrams per liter on Aug. 18, according to the violation notice.
Cabot installed methane detection alarms in three homes and vented the three affected water wells to keep the methane from accumulating and creating an explosion risk. The company is also delivering replacement drinking water to two of the homes, Spadoni said. The methane in the third water well has decreased so the home does not require an alternate water supply, he said.
Cabot spokesman George Stark said Friday that the company submitted a detailed response to the DEP and is working with regulators on the issue.
"Cabot is committed to safe and responsible operations and takes matters like this very seriously," he said. "We believe in fact-based, scientific research to guide any necessary corrective actions."
Department regulators sent Cabot a violation notice on Sept. 19, but neither the department's public eFACTS compliance database nor its monthly oil and gas violations report noted the inspection or violations until last week, when a Times-Tribune reporter asked about the status of the investigation.
DEP policy requires the oil and gas program to update the eFACTS database within 10 working days of completing an inspection or mailing a notice of violations.
Spadoni said the missing information was "an oversight."
State regulators determined in 2009 that faulty Cabot gas wells were also responsible for a prominent case of methane contamination affecting 19 homes in Dimock Twp., about 10 miles west of the Lenox site. Cabot has said natural conditions, not its operations, caused the contamination in that case.
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