Property owners west of Raleigh who are believed to own land above a rich natural gas deposit may qualify for free testing of well water, a precaution against potential contamination from drilling and exploration.
The U.S. Geological Survey and Duke University expect to test about 75 wells in sections of northern Lee and southern Chatham counties, concentrating in the most likely exploration areas if natural gas drilling is permitted in this state. (Download a map of the area here.)
The testing -- which would identify levels of methane, chemicals and compounds present in the water -- could help resolve the kinds of disputes that have happened in other states where some have alleged their water supplies have been destroyed by nearby drilling. Natural gas exploration in other states has led to lawsuits and settlements over alleged water contamination, in several documented cases resuling in energy companies buying out private homes and resettling the owners.
"There hasn't been exploration yet so we have a very unique opportunity to go in and get background data," said Melinda Chapman, the U.S. Geological Survey's N.C. groundwater specialist in Raleigh.
Private lab tests are expensive, sometimes costing more than $1,000 per well. The joint U.S.-Duke project has limited funding and will test about 75 of the 250-plus wells in the 77-square-mile testing area, which itself represents a fraction of the thousands of wells over the shale rock formation that could contain natural gas in Lee, Chatham, Moore and Durham counties.
North Carolina is believed to have 1,400 square miles of potential natural gas deposits, enough to supply this state with gas for several decades.
Natural gas is extracted from prehistoric shale rock formations using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." Both technologies are currently not legal in this sate, but some state lawmarkers are pushing to open the state to natural gas exploration to tap into a rich resource of clean-burning, domestic fuel.
The testing will take place between January and September. The wells to be tested will be selected on the completeness of property records pertaining to drill dates, well construction and other characteristics.
For more information, contact Melinda Chapman at 919-571-4047 or email@example.com.