Province betrays reluctance to blacken coalbed-methane gold rush, Drilling picks up pace as narrowly defined rules exclude many landowners by Sheila Pratt, The Edmonton Journal, May 28, 2006
When Dale Zimmerman moved to his farm eight years go, there was plenty of good well water for his family and his 100 head of cattle. Not anymore. Since last year, he’s been hauling water for his personal use and later for his cattle. His problems started last July, after a handful of coalbed-methane (CBM) wells were drilled nearby, says Zimmerman. After that, he noticed a silver colour in the water from his well and the cattle wouldn’t go near it. He received conflicting advice about the safety of his well water, but one oil-company test found high levels of methane.
Then, in the fall, when water was short, his calves drank from the contaminated well. They got bloated and sick. Zimmerman worries that natural gas is migrating from the coalbed-methane wells about 1.5 kilometres away and is contaminating his water well. …The Alberta government and the oil industry are very sensitive to the suggestion there is any such problem with coalbed-methane drilling. … Fracing is one of the big worries. Landowners and environmentalists fear the cracks will let coal gas seep into nearby groundwater. The Alberta government and industry say there’s no proof that happens. They maintain that natural gas or methane can occur naturally in ground water either from methane-producing bacteria or from “natural migration.” So don’t blame those new cracks from coalbed-methane wells if gas pours out of your kitchen taps. That answer is increasingly unconvincing to Zimmerman and other rural landowners. As Zimmerman points out, if the fracing is designed to get the methane flowing into the well pipe, why isn’t it possible it could also cause the gas to migrate further into groundwater? Meanwhile, the natural causes for his problem have been ruled out. Water tests, including one by Alberta Environment, show no methane-producing bacteria, and the company that drilled the water well five years ago confirmed that there was no methane at that time. … “I’d drill another (water) well but there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t contain gas,” says Zimmerman. [Emphasis added]