By Bob Downing
Akron Beacon Journal
A federal health agency says potentially explosive levels of natural gas at two houses in Granger Township in eastern Medina County are a public-health threat.
The problems in the two drinking-water wells appear to be linked to the nearby drilling of two natural-gas wells in 2008, says the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That news contradicts repeated statements from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on the connection between the drilling and problems at the houses.
“We are the victims of fracking and natural-gas drilling gone wrong,” said Mark Mangan, an affected homeowner.
On Sept. 29, 2008, Mangan and his wife, Sandy, found that their drinking-water well went dry at a time when a company was drilling for natural gas at Allardale Park about a half- mile away.
When the water returned to the Mangans’ well in five days, it had an unpleasant taste and rotten-egg scent. It was salty. It bubbled. It contained methane gas and a gray-colored slurry of cement.
The Mangans said they could ignite the gas bubbles in the water from their kitchen sink.
“Yes, we got water back, but it wasn’t our water,” said the 49-year-old Mangan. “Our water was gone.”
Neighbors William and Stephanie Boggs had similar well problems that began one day after the Mangans’. They told federal officials they continue to use the well water.
The health agency said both families still are at risk from potentially dangerous natural-gas levels. The agency concluded that “the current conditions are likely to pose a public-health threat.”
The agency looked at natural-gas levels detected last November by the Granger Township Fire Department.
The levels of explosivity were 34.7 percent and 47.4 percent at wells at the two houses, the agency said. Hazardous conditions exist when levels surpass 10 percent, the health agency said.
The gas levels in and around the Mangans’ house have been so high that firefighters were called several times. Columbia Gas shut off service for a time because of the likelihood of an explosion.
“We are constantly in danger,” Mangan said. “Our house was a bomb waiting to go off.”
He said the explosivity levels inside the house have been as high as 20 percent, far above the federal guideline of 1 percent.
ATSDR intends to work with ODNR, EPA, and the Ohio Department of Health to address the problem.
Those steps include:
Getting ODNR to immediately seal an older, abandoned natural-gas well that also appears to be contributing to the problem.
Working with the ODH and local health agencies to vent wellheads and enclosed space in the homes where water is used to protect residents.
Encouraging ODNR or the drillers to conduct gas tests in the two houses when water is in use, such as shower and laundry times.
Conducting additional water testing at the two houses and a house near the older leaking well, and surveys of other nearby homes.
The two Allardale Park gas wells were drilled by Wildcat Drilling LLC for Ohio Valley Energy, based in Austintown. The county park is east of the Mangans’ house and near the Bath Township border.
The wells, about 1,500 feet apart, were being drilled 3,700 feet deep and cemented on the outside for environmental protection at the time that the Mangans’ problems surfaced. The vertical wells were then fracked.
ATSDR noted: “Problems in cementing the well casings were recorded in the drilling logs provided to ODNR, indicating the loss of a significant amount of cement somewhere in the drilled formation.”
Initially, the Mangans and Boggs reportedly were told by a state investigator that they were too far away from the drilling.
An investigator explained that drilling could be responsible if their wells produced water again within five days. If that didn’t happen, drilling was not involved, they said they were told.
Their water returned, but with the smell, discoloration and gases.
Their well also is producing less water than it used to. Production from their well dropped from 30 gallons a minute to 2 or 3 gallons a minute.
ODNR disagrees that the local drilling was responsible for the couple’s problems.
In 2009 letters, the agency said it had investigated the Mangans’ complaint and found “no evidence” that nearby drilling for natural gas had caused their well problems.
The Mangans remain angry and frustrated by their ordeal.
The additional stress has taken a toll on both Mark, a millwright and volunteer firefighter, and Sandy, a real-estate agent.
“We’re very stressed,” said 48-year-old Sandy Mangan. “That’s the biggest thing. We’re not sure how this has affected our health. We have to live here. We can’t afford to walk away.”