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Portage County: Family concerned over methane in water

4:39 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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GARRETTSVILLE --  Water is the enemy of fire, except in Jason Kline's house. When a flame gets near his faucet, a fireball erupts. 

Around Christmas, the family noticed their water started fizzing.  When Jason's wife, Debby, lit a candle near the sink, they learned something was very wrong.

"Oh, I was so scared. It just was a huge explosion, the entire sink went up to the ceiling," Debby says.

The Kline's water is full of methane gas and they're not sure why.

About six months ago, Mountaineer Keystone Oil and Gas company put in a drilling rig in a field catty-corner from the Kline house.

The company paid for an EPA-certified test of the family's well water, which showed methane levels around nine, which is acceptable.

But in December, something changed after the drilling began.

"Methane levels have more than doubled and we're wondering if this is all just coincidental," Jason says.

Mountaineer Keystone LLC Director of Security Operations, Anthony Aulicino, wrote in an email:

"Ohio Department of Natural Resources regulations require pre-drill testing of well water within 1500 feet of a proposed drill site. Superseding regulations, we tested Mrs. Kline's residence, which lies over the required distance. At Mrs. Kline's request, we funded an independent lab of her choosing. Those results showed elevated methane levels in her well water existed prior to the start of any drilling activity."

After the December incident, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources tested the well water and registered a level of 22.  28 is considered hazardous.

They had no answer to a cause but recommended the family install explosive gas meters, carbon monoxide meters and a vented well cap with a riser.

But that would just detect methane, not remove it.  All of that and a methane separator would cost thousands of dollars the family says it can't afford.

ODNR responded in an email:

"Methane is naturally occurring in this portion of the state, and the water well in question was found to be drilled into shale, which may have led to these increased levels. At this time, the investigation is ongoing.   These types of occurrences highlight the need for the stringent regulations and water testing requirements ODNR insisted be included in Senate Bill 315 last year.  As a regulatory authority, ODNR will continue to investigate all claims of water contamination."    

But it's not only methane that's concerning the family.

The ODNR report also showed the well water's chloride levels were nearly twice the safe limit. 

George Sosebee is with Concerned Citizens of Ohio.  Since April, on the first Sunday of the month, they meet at King Of Glory Church off of state Route 303 to test the well water of Portage County residents who are concerned about the influx of drilling and fracking rigs popping up around them.

The group tests salinity and chloride levels with a $48 kit they bought out of a laboratory catalog and meters they received from the Sierra Club

Sosebee says they're no experts but they're trying to get a baseline measurement to show a difference if levels elevate.  The Kline's water tested off their charts too. 

"We want to be sure that it's done safe, it's done right and it protects the people, because right now they're exempted and non-transparent. They can do a lot of things and there's nobody seems to be doing much about it," Sosebee says.

As of now, there is no definitive way to know if the gas and chloride elevations are caused by nature or by the recent drilling, but that brings little peace to the Klines.

They can't use their fireplace, they drink and cook with bottled water, and they won't give tap water to their pets. But they still bathe in it.

"We're putting our kids in the bathtub every night in this explodable water. We don't know the consequences of sitting in gas water, but we just don't have a choice." Debby says.

Channel 3 talked to one of the Kline's neighbors, who says he's not having any issues with his well water and the Klines are unaware of any other neighbors having similar problems. 

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has reported no case in which groundwater has been contaminated. 

WKYC-TV

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