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Clearfield County Residents Worry About Planned Disposal Well

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign sits on the lawn of a home in DuBois, Pa. protesting a planned deep injection well.

A group of residents from Brady Township, Clearfield County say their residential neighborhood is not the place for a deep disposal well taking Marcellus wastewater. The residents, and local politicians from Clearfield County met with EPA officials earlier this week to discuss a plan to build a new disposal well in the tiny city of DuBois.
EPA officials told residents they have no up-to-date permit request for the site, which would have to be submitted by Windfall Oil and Gas, the company that wants to build the well.
Marianne Atkinson says EPA officials were able to give them “generic” information about the permitting process for a deep injection well, but could not discuss the Windfall proposal because they were still waiting to get a completed application from the company.
The EPA oversees deep injection wells in Pennsylvania but not any of the infrastructure involved in servicing the well, like roads, and the above ground pump stations. So, Atkinson says she still has lots of questions.
“What do we do if our water becomes contaminated years down the road?” said Atkinson in an email to StateImpact. “Since the toxic plume may take a long time to travel, will Windfall still be in business to be responsible for that damage?”
Atkinson’s husband Rick says there may not be anything he can do to stop the well from getting built in his neighborhood, but he points to a nearby deep injection well operated by Exco Resources, that developed a leak and the company didn’t inform the EPA for several months. The EPA temporarily shut down the operation, known as the Irvin well, and fined the company.
“It may not pollute our water if everything works according to design,” said Rick Atkinson.  “When you listen to them talk it sounds like they have it all figured out. But after that Irving well had the failure, they basically did three things, they exceded injection pressure, created a leak, and they didn’t notify the EPA, and they kept injecting. That’s a little worrisome because before that happened I thought the EPA had it pretty well regulated.”
The Atkinsons say they have had certified water tests done, at a cost of $500 dollars. But they wonder how often they need to spend that money in order to make sure their water is safe to drink.

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