Granville Summit resident Crystal Stroud's claim that she suffered barium poisoning by drinking well water contaminated by natural gas drilling has been refuted by a DEP investigation, DEP officials said on Thursday.

Based on the three-month investigation, any water well problems in Stroud's well are a result of pre-existing conditions in the area and are not related to gas drilling, Kevin Sunday, a spokesman for the DEP, said on Thursday.

Stroud, 29, had said that she began having symptoms in late March, such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, slurred speech, and stomach cramps, which she blamed on the elevated levels of contaminants, including barium, in her drinking water well.

She had said the contamination of her well had resulted from either the drilling of Chief Oil & Gas's Andrus gas well 1,200 feet from her home, or from gas drilling activity at other well sites in the area.

Chief Oil & Gas on Thursday released the results of its own investigation into high levels of barium and other contaminants in Stroud's well. In a press release that it issued on Thursday, Chief said its "thorough investigation showed that Chief Oil & Gas is not responsible for the water well contamination or health claims of Crystal Stroud."

The DEP issued a written statement on Thursday which said that the elevated levels of barium, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, chlorides and methane in Stroud's well were not caused by Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, but are due to "geological conditions" in the area.

"These geologic conditions include an aquifer, or an underground pocket or body of water, located in an area where water moves slowly, also called a restricted flow zone," the statement said. "The conditions of the aquifer in this particular area typically have elevated levels of minerals, such as barium."

Stroud had lodged a complaint with the DEP about her well on April 12, and the DEP took water samples from Stroud's well on April 13 and May 9, according to a letter that the DEP wrote to Stroud on Thursday and which the environmental agency released to the media.

The DEP found that there was barium present in Stroud's well "at a level at which there is the potential for adverse effects on human health," Sunday said.

In addition, the DEP found that Stroud's water contained levels of iron, manganese, chlorides and total dissolved solids which could cause "aesthetic problems," the DEP said. Aesthetic problems include, for example, poor taste, poor smell or cloudy water.

In addition to sampling Stroud's well, the DEP investigation involved sampling five nearby private water wells, reviewing past sample results of water wells in the area and interviewing the well owners regarding the historical quality of their drinking water, according to the DEP's statement.

Some of the well owners said that they had salty and metallic tasting water, even before Marcellus Shale gas drilling started in the area, Sunday said.

Other well owners said their water was a little cloudy and sputtered at the faucet - which is indicative of methane gas - even before Marcellus Shale gas drilling began in the area, Sunday said.

The DEP also collected isotopic samples at Stroud's well, which showed no connection to any nearby gas wells, the DEP said in its written statement.

Chief said that in January, it drilled a surface hole to a depth of 360 feet at the Andrus well site.

"The well was drilled using compressed air," Chief said in its press release. "No drilling mud was used, and none of the metals or chemicals found in Ms. Stroud's well water went into or came out of the well during the drilling process. Before any further drilling occurred, the surface hole was properly cased and cemented, isolating and protecting the ground water."

Chief said it sampled water from other wells in close proximity to the Andrus site prior to drilling, and then again after receiving Stroud's complaint. "These wells, which are much closer to the Andrus well site than Ms. Stroud's well, showed no meaningful change in water quality after drilling," Chief said in its press release.

Stroud did not return messages left Thursday evening by The Daily Review on her phone, seeking comment.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633: or e-mail: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.