Wednesday, June 23, 2010

DEP Plugs 11 Abandoned Wells in Erie County, PA

One thing EPA and other officials emphasize when they talk about hydro-fracturing shale wells or converting old Trenton-Black River wells into underground disposal wells: Make Sure All Abandoned Wells in the Area Are Plugged! You can even hear them capitalize each word when they speak.

So today's news from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is good news for the people in Erie County. DEP announced that between December 2009 and March 2010 they "successfully eliminated potential pollution and public safety hazards" by plugging 11 abandoned gas wells. 

The problem with abandoned gas wells, says DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch, is that they "can pollute streams and drinking water supplies and, in some situations, pose explosive dangers to nearby residents and communities. This is a public safety concern, as well as an environmental protection issue."  

Five of the 11 wells were in the City of Erie, four in Millcreek Township, one in North East Township, and one in Girard Borough, some located in densely populated neighborhoods. Many of the plugged wells had been venting gas or were found as a result of gas migration problems.

So, who pays for plugging abandoned wells? According to DEP these 11 wells were plugged using Pennsylvania’s Orphan Well Plugging Fund - at a cost of $137,348. The plugging program is funded by a surcharge on drilling permits, with as much as $200 from an individual permit fee going to the fund. 

DEP also notes that Pennsylvania has the greatest number of abandoned wells in the Appalachian region, and is ranked one of the top five states nationally. They've documented more than 8,700 wells throughout the state that were abandoned before passing modern oil and gas drilling regulations. 


  1. are the locations of these wells considered when marcellus permits are given out by DEP

  2. Glad to know the gas industry has to at least foot that bill.