Orphaned/Abandoned Wells Pose Challenge, Risk

abandonedwellA Water Quality Work Group that gathers regularly in Potter County to coordinate many efforts geared toward protection of the county’s water resources focused in on the many dozen of abandoned and orphaned gas and oil wells in the county – many of them uncharted. These wells, many of which were drilled more than a half-century ago, have been described as “ticking time bombs.” As their casing corrodes and as nearby drilling activity picks up, they have the potential to pose serious pollution risks unless they are located and retired. However, finding them is a big challenge and capping/retiring them could cost upwards of $250,000 each. The state has established a fund to pay for capping of abandoned and orphaned wells, but the demand for funds far exceeds the available money. Energy companies looking to drill into nearby acreage to tap shale gas have been retiring abandoned wells to protect their own assets. Work group members decided to confer with local watershed protection organizations and the Triple Divide Watershed Coalition to determine how they might work together to establish a better inventory of the abandoned and orphaned wells.

Members also discussed the shortcomings of state regulatory policies covering private water sources. Pennsylvania is one of just two states that have no standards for water well construction. Public education is the key to that issue and many others involving water quality, members agreed. They discussed the possibility of scheduling a “WaterBlitz” next spring, patterned after the successful “BioBlitz” held at the Austin Dam Memorial Park in 2009.

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.


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