A state investigation has determined that methane or natural gas in drinking water in northeast Portage County is naturally occurring, not tied to nearby drilling.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources analyzed the well water of Jason and Debby Kline of Nelson Township and ruled in a 25-page report that the methane was occurring naturally.
The Klines complained in December 2012 after Debby Kline reported that she had accidentally ignited methane mixed with her tap water while using a candle in the home’s master bedroom.
The Klines were concerned that the methane had come from two Utica shale wells that had been drilled about 1,500 feet away on the border of Nelson and Windham townships by Mountaineer Keystone LLC on the so-called Soinski pad.
The couple’s experience made headlines throughout the state after the couple shared their story publicly.
The Klines declined comment on the new report, saying they had not yet seen it.
The state agency concluded that “the methane in the Kline water well is naturally occurring and is not the result of oilfield activities.”
The report continued: “Isotopic analysis of the methane in the Kline well was identified as near-surface microbial gas that is genetically different from thermogenic gas produced in deeper geologic formations like the Utica shale.”
Testing before the drilling showed methane in water samples in nine of 12 households tested, including the Kline water well, the state said.
The ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management also tested 17 wells in the neighborhood in Nelson and Windham townships.
Those tests “did not show any indication that oilfield contaminants had been introduced into the groundwater through the drilling of the Soinski wells,” the report said.
Dissolved methane levels in the water wells were consistent with pre-drilling tests, the state said.
The concentrations of methane in the Kline well was between 10.2 and 58.2 milligrams per liter.
The methane level in neighboring wells was 2.5 milligrams per liter or less — with the majority less than 0.5 milligrams per liter. One milligram per liter is equal to 1 part per million.
The concentration and variations within the Klines’ well appears isolated to that well only, the state agency said. A number of factors may have contributed to such variations, the report says.
The presence of methane in the drinking water supply in that part of Portage County goes back to the 1940s, the report says.
Aeration systems can be installed to reduce the threat of methane in drinking water igniting and can be installed by homeowners, the state said. Systems cost $4,000 to $5,000.
It advised that a carbon monoxide detector should be installed in the Kline house and that the bathroom should be ventilated during and after bathing and showers. Ignition sources should be kept away from water faucets when in use. A vented well cap could help dissipate the methane from the water.
The Ohio drilling industry was pleased with the state report.
“Too often we point fingers without knowing the facts, and the cost of false accusations can be quite high,” said Shawn Bennett, a spokesman for Energy in Depth-Ohio, a pro-drilling industry group.
“Hopefully those, who incorrectly, placed blame on the industry for this situation will apologize, though I don’t foresee that happening anytime soon. At the end of the day, this reports highlights why it’s important to base our conclusions on evidence,” he said.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.