Three years after drilling, feds say natural gas in Medina County well water is potentially explosive

Three years after drilling, feds say natural gas in Medina County well water is potentially explosive by Bob Downing, January 17, 2012, Beacon Journal
A federal health agency says potentially explosive levels of natural gas at two houses in eastern Medina County are a public health threat. The problems in the two drinking water wells appear linked to the nearby drilling of two natural gas wells in 2008, says the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That news contradicts repeated statements from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on the connection between the drilling and problems at the two houses at State and Remsen roads. “We are the victims of fracking… and natural gas drilling gone wrong,” said Mark Mangan, one of the affected homeowners. On Sept. 29, 2008, Mangan and wife, Sandy, found that their drinking water well had gone dry at the same time that a company was drilling for natural gas at Allardale Park about a half mile away. When the water returned to the Mangans’ well in five days, it had an unpleasant taste and a rotten-egg scent. It was salty. It bubbled. It contained methane gas and a gray slurry of cement. The Mangans could ignite the gas bubbles in the water from their kitchen sink, similar to what happened in the anti-fracking documentary Gasland. “Yes, we got water back, but it wasn’t our water,” said the 49-year-old Mangan. “Our water was gone.” Neighbors William and Stephanie Boggs had similar well problems that began one day after the Mangans’. … The Granger Township case is one of a small but growing number of cases in the United States where contamination problems have been linked by a federal agency to natural gas drilling. In a Dec. 22 letter to the U.S. EPA, the CDC agency said both families are still at risk from potentially dangerous natural gas levels. The agency concluded that “the current conditions are likely to pose a public health threat.” … The gas levels in and around the Mangans’ house have been so high that firefighters were called several times. Columbia Gas shut off service for a time because of the likelihood of an explosion. “We are constantly in danger,” Mangan said. “Our house was a bomb waiting to go off.” …  The Mangans remain angry at what they perceive to be the lack of help from the state agency. “The Ohio Department of Natural Resources did nothing for us. They said the gas company did nothing,” Mark Mangan said. Natural Resources disagrees that the local drilling was responsible for the couple’s problems. In 2009 letters, the agency said it had investigated the Mangans’ complaint and found “no evidence” that nearby drilling for natural gas had caused their well problems. In January 2009, the state agency’s Division of Mineral Resources Management sent the Mangans a four-page letter that largely dismissed their complaint. Geologist Ahmed Hawari said a mild drought was responsible for the water loss from the’ well. In March 2009, a top agency official upheld the Hawari’s conclusions. Scott Kell, then-deputy chief, indicated that the salt contamination probably came from road salt, not drilling wastes. In October 2009, the state agency reported that a new source of contamination had been discovered: an abandoned well nearby. The state had put a video camera down the Mangans’ water well and discovered evidence of a natural gas well on a neighbor’s property leaking into the Mangans’ aquifer, state spokesman Tom Tomastik said in a letter. … “I just want justice now. Because of everything we’ve been through, I do not believe that ODNR is capable or even interested in protecting Ohioans. Its only interest is helping and protecting the drillers. And that’s wrong.”

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