Marcellus Shale

Franklin Forks Water Well Likely Impacted by Faulty Equipment, Not Natural Gas

The Times Tribune reported last week, the Manning family of Franklin Forks is suing WPX Energy over unsubstantiated claims of water contamination. EID-Marcellus covered the developing situation a few weeks ago, and since, more evidence has become available including information supporting the water well in question suffers from a mechanical problem not deep pressure associated with migratory methane.

What’s Going on in Franklin Forks?

Franklin Forks first made headlines, at least on YouTube, with a video of water “exploding” from a private water well. You will see in a video later in this post, the well never actually exploded, yet soon after the footage became available, residents of the home and anti-gas activists from other areas claimed this phenomenon occurred from high levels of methane released during natural gas development. This has since been shown on Fox News and other media outlets, increasing the hype of a situation that had yet to be confirmed.

While the anti natural gas community was chomping at the bit over its hopes to have found a “so called Dimock” on the heels of EPA’s findings, DEP and WPX Energy, the closest operator (over 4000 feet away), were simultaneously conducting testing to determine what was happening to this private water well. WPX Energy has assisted DEP and the Manning family in a number of ways, including supplying fresh water, screening for methane, and most importantly, inspecting the actual water well.

Sometimes Machines Break

WPX engineers, with over 30 years of water well experience, examined the Manning’s well. In doing so, they were able to recreate the water spraying up through the cap at will. This suggested the water well is suffering from a mechanical failure, not consistent with problems associated with deep pressure, as the media reported.

Here we have the never before seen footage of these WPX engineers inspecting the Manning’s well during the last time they were allowed on the property.

After discovering the mechanical nature of this problem, WPX Energy offered to fix the Manning’s water well with the oversight and participation of DEP. Instead of agreeing, the Manning’s attorneys blocked WPX Energy from the property. WPX Energy then offered to pay for a third party contractor chosen by the Manning’s to repair the damaged well; this solution too has been road-blocked by the Manning’s legal representation. Actually, immediately following the creation of this video and investigation, the attorneys barred WPX officials from stepping foot on the property.

Also, it is our understanding, to date, that the Manning’s water well has not experienced any further “eruptions” since WPX energy shut of the pump. Another indication this issue is mechanical.

Fingerprints are a Match

DEP has finished conducting its sample testing. The agency has released the data to the involved families and is working hard to explain the results. In the meantime, though, the Manning’s have released their samplings to media outlets in the area, claiming elevated levels of methane and heavy metals. To date, the Manning’s have not shared the actual results with the general public.

We are hearing, however, WPX Energy’s testing is consistent with DEP’s sample and both of these tests show methane isotopic readings are the same as Salt Springs State Parkshallow methane. The other elements referenced by the media, are found naturally, are indicative of the area, and are not used in any of WPX’s operations.

In our research we have also come across historic examples of high methane levels in this region. Please take a look at the following excerpt from a 1930s publication on Pennsylvania water quality.

Click the image to download a PDF version.

As history, water well inspections, and water testing all suggest this issue is mechanical in nature the Manning’s continue to seek legal action against WPX Energy on claims that appear to be unsubstantiated.  The question remains how long this will continue and why do unsubstantiated claims gain broader attention while  historical data and other facts that refute these claims often go unreported?

While that answer may be unclear, it is clear that the residents of Franklin Forks seem to be growing tired of the Manning’s claims.  They are  aware of the facts and the historic water quality in the region.   While these facts may be overlooked by a new resident, out of town activists, and others it doesn’t make them any less compelling or less indicative that natural gas development isn’t the likely culprit affecting the Manning’s well.

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