Forward Twp. drilling worries some neighbors

  By ERIC SLAGLE Daily News Staff Writer

  Neighbors of a property in Forward Township that is being considered for natural gas drilling are concerned over what effect such a project might have on their water supplies and local roads. Residents who live along Elkhorn Road brought their concerns to a regular meeting of the township ’s board of supervisors Thursday after receiving letters late last month from Mountain V Oil Gas Inc., a drilling company based in Bridgeport, W.Va., notifying them of a potential drilling project on a property near their homes. The drilling would occur on a property owned by Harry and Karen Williams, according to the letters. Nick Butela, who received a letter because he lives within 1,000 feet of the property where the drilling could occur, was among several residents who said they are concerned that drilling in the area would destroy local roads and possibly ruin his water supply, which comes from a well. Should either be destroyed by such a project, “We don’t know if we’ll have any recourse,” he said. Supervisors weren’t able to offer much in the way of reassurances, saying it’s the state, not local municipalities, that oversee such matters. “Most of them are interested in being a good neighbor,” supervisor Tom



Headley said of drilling companies. Though drillers make a
 sincere effort to keep water supplies from being contaminated when they put in a well, Headley said accidents can happen. Responding to comments about Mountain V’s expressed interest in performing water tests on the land belonging to the letter recipients, Headley noted, “I would encourage everybody not to let them come out by themselves” to do the tests. Residents who live near the drill site also have been asked to fill out questionnaires about their water supplies. Board of supervisors Chairman Tom DeRosa said, “I think it’s highly unlikely that it will affect your water.” Still, he asked police Chief Tom Staley to look out for drilling operators entering the community to work. If he sees any, DeRosa told the chief, have them check in at the township office. Headley said the township doesn’t have a lot of control over the 35 to 40 gas wells already located within its boundaries. Regulation of wells primarily belongs to the state Department of Environmental Protection, he said. In an effort to exert some control over drilling and other projects, the township gave preliminary approval to a zoning ordinance amendment requiring permits for all earth moving projects except those related to farming. The ordinance amendment requires that permit seekers state their purpose for needing to move earth and submit plans for their project to the township .
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 There is a $300 permit fee.
  Rosemary Rossman, who also received one of the letters, said she is con­cerned not only for the spring that supplies water for her home. She said she also is worried that all the heavy traffic will destroy Elkhorn Road.
  Supervisors were equally pessimistic about the fate


of the road. They said drill ers will post bonds to restore some roads, but the amount they are required to pay municipali­ties doesn’t begin to cover the actual costs of repaving damaged roads.
  It was noted at the meet­ing that the drilling proj­ect is not definite. Another company, Range Resources, which is based in Texas and has a Pittsburgh office, signed leases with property owners and was prepared to drill wells in Forward Township but abandoned those plans when the price of gas dropped.
  Headley, who talked for a long time after the meeting with the residents, pledged to look out for the interests of the township.
  “I’m doing my best to keep on top of this situa­tion,” he said.

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