ASYLUM TOWNSHIP - Democratic candidate for governor John Hanger visited the home of Asylum Township resident Max Chilson on Wednesday and called for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to retest Chilson's water well, which was allegedly contaminated by natural gas drilling from nearby gas operations conducted by Chief Oil & Gas.

According to Chilson, his well water began turning black in May of 2011 on the same day a natural gas well located approximately 1,200 feet away was drilled. In November of 2011, Chief installed an in-line filter system in his home, which captured the black substance. While Chilson uses the water for various tasks, he does not drink it. Chilson noted that DEP also tested his water several times, but said that the department has not tested his water in approximately a year.

Additionally, Chilson added that he also attempted to contact state and local representatives which were unable to help him.

Hanger called on Chief to revisit Chilson's situation and discuss the possibility of drilling a new water well, which he said has been done for other nearby local residences.

"I'm calling on Chief today to come back and talk with (Max)," Hanger said. "I'm calling on them to do for you what they have done for others.

"I'm calling on the DEP to come out and test (Max's) water. We need to have the water tested when people experience problems promptly," he continued. "I'm hoping Chief will come out here and sit down and do the right thing."

Hanger went on to detail steps he would take to alleviate situations similar to Chilson's if he were elected governor.

"As governor, I would like to create a new office that would professionally and independently investigate citizen complaints about gas drilling," he said. "That office would then allow (Max) and other citizens who have complaints to get a real answer, and you wouldn't necessarily need to have an attorney, but have the state government look into these issues in a fully professional and independent way."

Following the conference, DEP submitted a statement to the Daily Review regarding Chilson's water.

"The department has spent a very significant amount of time and resources investigating Mr. Chilson's complaints since May 2011, and our Oil and Gas program staff has sampled his well at least six different times from 2011 through 2013," Spokesperson Daniel Spadoni said in the statement. "The sample results clearly show that Mr. Chilson has a bacteria problem in his water, which may be resolved by disinfecting his well as we recommended multiple times.

"He also had one iron and two manganese samples exceed the secondary Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for drinking water in May 2011," Spadoni continued. "Secondary MCLs reflect the aesthetics of the water, such as taste and smell, as opposed to primary MCLs, which reflect potential dangers to human health. Based on our extensive sampling, we determined that natural gas well drilling did not impact his water supply, and this was communicated to Mr. Chilson via letters that included the sample results."

Chief also submitted a statement to the Daily Review.

"We received a water well complaint in May 2011 from Mr. Chilson as Chief was beginning to drill a natural gas well at a nearby pad location in Asylum Township," Public Affairs Director Daria Fish stated. "After we received the complaint, we followed our protocol to test his well with a certified lab and to work with state regulatory agencies to investigate the cause.

"Chief has not tested the well since the installation of the water filter," she said. "We sympathize with Mr. Chilson's situation. We have offered filtration equipment and technical assistance. We have supplied water throughout the investigation period."

Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 265-1639; email: jwilliams@northeastdriller.com.