Residents want gas drilling to stop at Beaver Run Reservoir |
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Rich Cholodofsky

Environmentalists on Friday demanded board members of the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County halt deep well gas drilling at the agency’s Beaver Run Reservoir property in Washington and Bell townships.

The plea came nearly two months after a well at the reservoir property malfunctioned when a drop in pressure at one of the Utica wells operated by CNX Resources prompted drilling to be temporarily halted. The problem well eventually was capped, but drilling is expected to continue at the site, officials said.

“We want you to request the (Department of Environmental Protection) to stop drilling, fracking and refracking at Beaver Run,” said Dr. Cynthia Walter of Hempfield. “If you do not publicly oppose such risky activities near our water, the MAWC board — that’s you people — will be considered willfully negligent.”

Authority officials said the incident did not impact the public drinking supply.

The state environmental agency last month issued a notice of violations against CNX related to the Beaver Run incident. The state’s investigation is ongoing.

CNX leases property at the reservoir site, where 52 wells have been drilled. The authority last year earned more than $3.8 million in royalties from gas collected from the reservoir property wells and at other locations owned by the utility.

Drilling opponents maintain the fracking activity is a continuing danger to the public water supply.

Jan Kiefer of Scottdale told authority members the activity is likely to result in toxins that could impact the water supply. The pressure anomaly that resulted in the well breach in January is just one of many potential risks, he said.

“It was completely foreseen,” Kiefer said.

Authority officials said legal contracts with energy companies prevent the authority from halting the drilling activity.

“Our primary responsibility is to monitor the activity, and all the sampling indicates normal water quality in and around the reservoir,” authority business manager Brian Hohman said.

Officials said they will continue to monitor the drilling activity to ensure CNX is in compliance with regulations said.

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