September 19, 2017

Survey of Ground-Level Ambient Methane Levels in Wyalusing, PA

Gas Safety Incorporated
Report to Damascus Citizens for Sustainability

Report on a Survey of Ground-Level Ambient Methane Levels
in the Vicinity of Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania
November 2013
by Bryce F. Payne Jr. and Robert Ackley

There have been numerous reports of methane emissions related to shale gas development in the vicinity of Wyalusing, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. In the interest of furthering the understanding of those fugitive methane events Damascus Citizens for Sustainability engaged Gas Safety, Inc. to survey ambient air methane levels in the vicinity of Wyalusing, PA. The survey covered parts of 9 townships on both sides of the Susquehanna River from Towanda on the northwest to Wyalusing on the central eastern side. Survey coverage was restricted to readily identifiable public roadways. Consequently, the survey was most intense from the Susquehanna River west to Pennsylvania Route 187.

Though the survey results do not prove a relationship between ambient air methane contamination and groundwater contamination, it is clearly suggestive. Further, it also suggests shale gas well operations in that area still did not have control of the gas that has been developed there. In fact, as will be discussed, survey data indicates there may be gas control problems in about 10% of the survey area resulting in elevated methane levels in most of the area.

In addition, detection of any level of methane above normal background for an area indicates only two possible conditions: diffuse, non-point emissions are occurring over some portion of the area, or, one or more point sources are active within the area.

Wyalusing Methane

Conclusions

Methane from any source rapidly diffuses and rises in the air. Consequently, detection of possible methane sources from any distance away requires extremely sensitive measurement capabilities. The GSI survey approach takes advantage of extremely sensitive measurement instrumentation to detect small increases in ambient air methane levels as an indication of probable methane emissions sources in a given area. Based on the data collected using that equipment, we conclude that the Towanda-Wyalusing area is probably substantially impacted by methane emissions from shale gas wells both within and beyond the survey area, depending on wind conditions. The coincidence of two DEP methane migration impact areas, Paradise Road and Sugar Road, and the most marked ambient air methane levels suggests there are still gas control problems associated with the shale gas wells there, as well as in another documented impact area in Leroy Township also cursorily measured following the main survey. A rapid water test in the Leroy area confirmed the water in that area is still contaminated with methane. These survey results suggest methane contamination continues and measures taken by gas well operators with regard to methane migration problems that have occurred in these three areas have likely been only partially effective.