New York Hydro-Geologist Warns Pocahontas Residents To Do All They Can To Protect Native Water Sources
Marlinton, WV – On November 14th, WVU geologist Tim Carr told the Pocahontas County Commissioners that the likelihood of Marcellus shale drilling coming to Pocahontas is very small. Carr says that the county doesn’t have the right geology to make it attractive to a potential natural gas driller. Paul Rubin, a hydro-geologist from New York, begs to differ.
Rubin presented a viewpoint directly opposite that of Carr during his presentation to the County Commissioners on November 17th. Rubin takes the stance that considering drilling activities in the rest of the state, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that it will come to Pocahontas.
“And it doesn’t take much to see that as they continue to exploit and test, they’re going to go into Pocahontas County,” says Rubin. “So even though I think there’s only one well on this map right now, this is the way it will be going. To stick your head in the sand and think that it’s not going to be looked at in the county probably isn’t the best idea in terms of your groundwater quality protection.”
Rubin says it’s not just the Marcellus but also the Utica Shale that’s being looked at as a source of incredible amounts of natural gas. The Utica shale formation lies a few thousand feet below the Marcellus layer, but gas companies are already starting to explore its potential, especially in eastern Ohio. Rubin spoke about a couple of handouts he brought with him referring to natural gas drilling and protecting fresh water aquifers.
“They’re really a synopsis of a lot of detailed testimony I’ve submitted to through the Delaware River Keeper,” he says. “Yes they talk about the fact that there in the Delaware River Basin when you review it, but that and this area is all part of the Appalachian Basin, so all the concerns that are raised in those fact sheets, apply here as well.”
He says this is important because of the unique geology of the shale. According to the gas industry, there’s no way for this gas to escape because it lies so deep underground. However, he says that doesn’t take into account naturally occurring fractures in the formations that could be vertical pathways for these deep gases to get to the surface. He cites studies done by structural geologists to back this up.
“They’ve looked at satellite imagery, and done ground mapping,” he says. “What they found is anomalies where very high gas methane, natural gas concentrations along certain dense fracture areas. What that means is that some of these vertical fractures that we see through this area are open from whatever gas rich horizon to the ground surface. The concept that some of these fractures can’t go deep doesn’t really hold water.”
Carr, a self-avowed promoter of developing the Marcellus shale play, says drilling can be done safely if it’s done right. Again, Rubin disagrees with this premise. He says a fresh water aquifer under normal environmental conditions should be expected to last up to one million years. But he says the life expectancy of the steel and concrete used to drill through the aquifer is considerably less.
Rubin says under the best of circumstances, the concrete could last about 100 years, assuming it doesn’t develop cracks, shrink or debond, all circumstances he says could allow gas to escape. He says the life expectancy of the steel is even less, about 80 years, due to rust and other environmental degradation. He also dismisses the industry practice of triple casing cement between layers of steel as any better protection for a well.
He showed several pictures from various homes in Dimock, Pennsylvania, currently a hotbed of litigation involving water sources allegedly poisoned by fracing processes. One picture shows a man holding a glass of water from his home the color and consistency of diluted chocolate milk. When asked if he has had the sample tested, Rubin declined to answer as it is part of a case under litigation.
Rubin also spoke about the potential impacts of drilling in karst terrain, and the dangers it could pose to the flora and fauna found in caves. The presentation, following the one by Tim Carr, left many listeners more confused about the drilling process and how much of a danger it presents to the county. Tune in for noon hour on Wednesday for more about this presentation and a Commission resolution that failed to pass muster.
More information on Rubin and his services can be found at www.hydroquest.com