Methane gas has bubbled up at three residential water wells and two streams in Bradford Country, Pennsylvania.
The affected area is around a half a mile from a Chesapeake Energy hydraulic fracturing drilling pad. According to the State Department of Environmental Protection, all three residential wells have been vented and had a methane gas alarm installed in them. Each of the households is receiving either bottled water or a temporary water supply tank from Chesapeake energy.
Both Chesapeake and the DEP are investigating the cause of the methane making its way into the water system. DEP officials have been collecting gas samples since Tuesday.
Water contamination has been linked to fracking for years. Several communities have seen their health compromised by the booming unconventional natural gas industry, as evidenced so well by the Academy-award nominated documentary Gasland. No area, perhaps, has received more damage than Pennsylvania -- which sits on the largest chunk of the Marcellus shale, the world's largest known deposit of natural gas.
In 2010, in Lycoming County, 13,000 gallons of toxic, hydraulic fracturing fluid spilled forth into local waterways after a valve was left open on a 20,000 galllon holding tank at an ExxonMobil drilling site.
Meanwhile, last year, Chesapeake Energy, America's largest natural gas company, experienced a major fracking spill in Pennsylvania. In April, a piece of equipment failed at the company's drilling site near Canton, Pennsylvania, causing a blowout of its well. Thousands of gallons of fracking fluid spilled into local waterways and seven families were evacuated. Chesapeake had to temporarily shut down operations to seal the leak.
Shale gas represents one of the hottest industries in the energy sector. Despite serious public health concerns, the government has yet to impose strong environmental regulations on the industry; so, the potential rewards for drilling companies far exceed the risks.
Many are flocking to the Marcellus Shale in order to get a slice of the pie, and capital is flowing through the industry like water. For example, Energy Corp. of America, one of the oldest players in the region raised another $150 million for its drilling operations this week.
However, with the cost of natural gas plummeting, not everyone is bullish on the market. In an interview this week, one of the industry's biggest supporters, billionaire oil and gas tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, called natural gas a "disaster" and announced he had sold his stock in Chesapeake Energy.
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