Recently, EM Energy began drilling three unconventional gas wells in Oakland Township, approximately 1 mile uphill from the Oneida Valley Reservoir. The reservoir is the water source for more than 30,000 people in Butler City, Butler Township, and Center Township and parts of other townships.
The exact measurement, using the DEP Oil and Gas GIS mapping system, was 1.02 miles from the nearest point of the reservoir. The wells are located a mere .23 miles uphill from a stream that drains into the Connoquenessing Creek just below the dam.
These three wells are the first of six permitted for the Draco well pad. My question is: Why did the DEP permit wells that are uphill from a public water source for 30,000 people? Why did they allow it so close to a stream that feeds the Connoquenessing Creek, from which the water is drawn at the plant on Route 38? Why didn’t they think about what could happen?
Regardless of whether or not you support gas drilling, I think that most reasonable people with common sense would not want gas drilling allowed so close to a municipal water source. Accidents, spills, and leaks do happen.
The DEP just recently confirmed three cases of drilling-caused water contamination right here in Butler County, and likely more will follow.
And these three wells likely will not be the last. According to the Butler County Recorder of Deeds online database, many properties even closer to the reservoir have been leased to various companies. People may say, “Well, that’s a mile away from the water,” but they often forget about the watersheds, the streams and creeks feeding the larger lakes. For several years after 9/11, Pennsylvania American Water Company would not allow anyone near the reservoir, for fear of terrorists poisoning Butler’s water supply. Why doesn’t anyone care about that much more credible threat?
A similar fight to save a critical watershed is unfolding in Franklin Township, where a group of concerned residents and myself are attempting to stop XTO Energy from drilling in the watershed for Lake Arthur and Moraine State Park. Both of these watersheds, the Oneida Valley Reservoir and Lake Arthur, should be off-limits to fracking. Why take the risk?