Gas well pressure issue leads to testing of water supply for northern Westmoreland County communities
The Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County has asked for an extra water sample from Beaver Run Reservoir after a gas well located near the water source recently lost pressure.
CNX Resources suspended fracking operations from its Shaw 1G well, a deep Utica well on the northwestern side of Beaver Run Reservoir, because of a “pressure anomaly” observed last week, the Canonsburg-based energy company said over the weekend.
The Municipal Authority serves more than 400,000 people in five counties. Beaver Run Reservoir provides water to about 130,000 people in northern Westmoreland County through the authority’s George R. Sweeney Treatment Plant. It also serves small portions of Armstrong and Indiana counties.
CONSOL Energy began establishing gas wells on seven pad sites near the reservoir in 2011.
Since then, the authority has contracted with Indiana University of Pennsylvania to do a quarterly analysis of water from the reservoir and runoff from the various well sites.
IUP chemistry professor Nathan McElroy, co-director of the Beaver Run Project, said a water sample was obtained Sunday, and the majority of the analysis should be done by the end of the week.
“It’s my understanding that MAWC just wanted to make sure that (the well anomaly) would not have an impact on the surface water quality,” McElroy said.
As of late Monday morning, CNX had been in contact with 130 area residents “to make them aware of our efforts and to answer any questions they may have,” company spokesman Brian Aiello said.
CNX said in a statement over the weekend that there was “no immediate impact to the local community or the environment.”
The Municipal Authority said in a statement over the weekend that there was no impact to the reservoir.
“Our water quality surveillance is increased any time there is any activity on our property. It is very comprehensive and has not noted any changes,” the statement said.
The seven well pads on authority property have 45 Marcellus wells and seven Utica wells, Aiello said. The Shaw pad was “spud” in July 2018 and completed Jan. 5. Fracking began the following day but was suspended after the pressure anomaly, he said.
In response, CNX has begun to remediate the well and “arrest the subsurface flow of gas,” the company statement said.
Company personnel and consultants “are monitoring existing nearby gas wells and are continuing to manage any potential gas communication to those wells,” the statement said.
Washington Township supervisors released a statement Monday reiterating what CNX and the Municipal Authority said about a lack of impact to the reservoir. They said the air quality in the area also is being monitored.
“CNX personnel are flaring some of the wells on and near the property and are actively monitoring many of the smaller shallow wells surrounding the Municipal Authority,” the supervisors said.
The supervisors said CNX and (Great White Well Control) are “working diligently to alleviate the well site issues, including having all the tributaries and sites diked and pumps on scene to insure that if any water does come from the wells that it should not reach the reservoir.”
McElroy said that in the eight years of analysis provided by the IUP Beaver Run Project, no changes in water quality have been detected due to drilling activities. He said it’s up to the Municipal Authority to interpret the data provided by IUP.
Karen Cardinale, who lives in nearby Bell Township, said she has seen flaring activity from wells off Route 380 since late last week.
“People are wondering what the heck’s going on,” she said.
The Mountain Watershed Association said on its Facebook page that it has been organizing concerned residents but that “more can be done to protect the thousands of people who rely on this drinking water source.”
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .