On The Hunt for Abandoned and Orphaned Wells

  • Susan Phillips

Abandoned well found in Bradford, Pa.

If you’re out hunting or hiking in Pennsylvania’s woods and stumble across an old rusted pipe sticking out of the ground, chances are, nobody knows about it. And if it’s spewing a bubbling liquid, somebody should definitely know about it. No one knows exactly how many abandoned oil and gas wells are in Pennsylvania, or where they are. The state Department of Environmental Protection estimates the number to be about 180,000. These old wells can date back to the 1860’s, when Pennsylvania’s oil boom began.
Now a group focused on finding more of these wells has organized a scavenger hunt. Armed with a digital camera and a GPS tracking device to record the longitude and latitude of the site, volunteers have documented 21 wells since the hunt began on November 1. Scavenger Hunt PA has also created a map of these discovered wells and has posted photos on their website.
Abandoned or orphaned wells are any that have not been tapped for at least a year. Regulations regarding safely plugging old wells were scant until the 1960’s. Since then, the permitting process has provided documentation of the location of all new wells. DEP has spent millions of dollars locating, documenting and plugging some of these old wells.

Up Next

Artist's Mugs Make Fracking Debate Easier to Grasp