New Complications to an Old Problem: Unplugged Gas Wells a Threat to Drinking Water

by Nicole Good on April 5, 2011

Gas wells drilled before 1929 were not required to be documented. This photo is of Versailles, Pa in 1920.

With all the permits being issued for new gas wells, and all the complications from current drilling activities, why worry about old abandoned gas wells?

Since 1989 there have been over 100 documented cases of drinking water contamination linked to old deteriorating gas wells, and house explosions caused by migrating gas.  These problematic abandoned wells were often left by companies that went bankrupt before the well could be plugged properly.  Many of these wells were drilled before records were kept, and if there was never a casing, or if the casing was removed, they’re very difficult to locate.

Furthermore, fracking new gas wells has the potential to increase the disturbance of old wells, and the EPA will be investigating the possibility of frack and brine water migrating through these old conduits.

Read the full article here…

In West Virginia alone, there are at least 10,000 abandoned, unplugged wells.  Plugging these old wells can be complicated, and cost anywhere between a few thousand and one hundred thousand dollars.  To prevent that cost from falling to the taxpayer, some states require energy companies to pay a bond.  However, in West Virginia companies can pay a low blanket fee, often inadequate to plug a single well, to drill an unlimited number of wells on a single permit.  Read WV SORO’s letter to the EPA here...

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