Posts Tagged ‘Bryan Swistock’

Marcellus Shale Regulations Regarding Drinking Water in PA

Bryan Swistock, Penn State Water Quality Extension Specialist, discusses the Marcellus shale regulations regarding drinking water in PA. Bryan also provides his thoughts on changes to the regulations and any regulatory gaps.
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Marcellus Shale Waste Water Treatment & Disposal

A conversation with Bryan Swistock, Penn State Water Quality Extension Specialist, on waste water that is produced by the Marcellus shale industry and options for treatment.
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State tells how to protect water quality

A Back Mountain workshop addresses potential problems with Marcellus Shale drilling.

By Steve
Staff Writer

LEHMAN TWP. – Back Mountain residents who attended a workshop on “Natural Gas Drilling and Drinking Water” on Thursday received a mini education on how to protect their wells from potential contamination by migrating natural gas as well as what two regulator agencies are doing to protect state waterways from the same potential threat.

Contact the state Department of Environmental Protection at the following numbers with questions about water quality related to Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling and concerns about suspected contamination:
826-2300 – 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays
826-2511 – after-hours emergency and complaint number
321-6550 – Bureau of Oil & Gas East Regional Main Office
Call Bryan Swistock of the Penn State Cooperative Extension with questions about protecting water wells at 814-863-0194.

Bryan Swistock, a water resources extension associate from the Penn State Cooperative Extension, presented an hour-long talk about natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale formation, how problems with drilling operations could potentially affect drinking water supplies, and what residents can and should do to protect them.

The program was hosted by the Cooperative Extension, state Sen. Lisa Baker, state Rep. Karen Boback, Back Mountain Community Partnership, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Swistock said about 41 percent of all private drinking water wells fail at least one water quality test, so it’s smart to test one’s well water regularly even without the threat of natural gas from drilling wells migrating into them.

Swistock said energy companies are required to test all water supplies within 1,000 feet of a drilling site before drilling so they have a baseline to compare test results if there is suspected contamination of a water supply by drilling activity. Some companies, such as EnCana Oil and Gas, which is poised to begin drilling in the Back Mountain in July, test wells within 1 mile of a drill site.

Swistock said residents should make sure the person collecting water samples works for a state-accredited lab. He said he’s talked to several people who told them the person who took samples was the same person who negotiated a land lease with them.

For folks who live outside the area in which the energy company pays for testing but want to play it safe, he said a full round of tests can cost up to $1,000. However, testing for the most common elements associated with Marcellus Shale drilling – methane, chloride, barium and total dissolved solids (TDS) – costs only about $150.

Indicators of water problems include foaming or bubbling water or spurting faucets, salty or metallic tastes, changes in water color or odor and reductions in water quantity or flow.

Also making presentations on Thursday were Michael McDonnell, a water quality specialist with DEP, and Tom Beauduy, deputy director and counsel for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

Copyright: Times Leader

Drilling’s impact on water in spotlight

Expert advises landowners to have groundwater tested before gas drilling begins.

In the rush to sign leases to drill for natural gas, some fear that dollar signs might blur landowners’ considerations of other important issues, like protecting groundwater.

But landowners are unlikely to notice most major threats to water quality, and the problems they do notice, according to Bryan Swistock, a water specialist with Penn State University, have more to do with landowner oversights than driller mistakes.

“Most of the real health concerns in water you wouldn’t even notice,” he said. “The vast majority of the complaints turn out to be something else (other than contamination from drilling), so it’s really important that people take a look at their water supply and make sure they’re not causing their own problems.”

He noted that problems often occur from faulty residential wells or other outside factors, but landowners attribute it to the drilling. Natural gas drilling sites are cropping up in the region as companies rush to tap the Marcellus shale, a layer of rock about a mile below the surface that industry experts believe is trapping billions of dollars in natural gas.

Swistock, who has done most of his research with shallow wells in western Pennsylvania instead of the deep shale wells, stressed the importance of getting water tested for a baseline before giving drillers the green light. “It’s very difficult to show that anything’s been done to your water unless you can show it was good before,” he said.

He suggested watching for sedimentation, particularly due to construction and ground disturbance, as well as metals like barium and iron showing up in groundwater.

“It’s not common, but it can happen from time to time,” he said. “If it’s going to happen, most likely it’s going to happen right around the gas well.”

Just as important are concerns over the quantity of water used, where it comes from and where it goes. The innovative horizontal drilling method used to tap the shale requires millions of gallons of water, and industry watchers like Swistock are concerned that the region lacks the treatment facilities necessary to process the tainted water that results.

In an attempt to educate landowners about these water issues, Swistock has been holding seminars through the Penn State Cooperative Extension. One is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 14 at Lake-Lehman High School.

“It’s funny. You can pretty much divide the people who attend these things into two groups,” Swistock said. Those who stand to profit off the drilling generally attend but don’t get too agitated, he said. Those who won’t profit but stand to be affected by any problems do get agitated. “It’s a natural reaction. If you’re going to make money from something you’re more willing to put up with it.”

Still, Swistock noted, with all the problems, the problems with natural gas drilling are a far cry from those associated with past energy extraction activities in this region. “It certainly pales in comparison to coal mining,” he said.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader