County leaders surprised by gas well head 'explosion' in Preston

NORWICH – Members of the Chenango County Planning Board were surprised to learn Tuesday that what was described as an “explosion” had occurred at a natural gas well in Preston last month.

Central New York Landowners’ Coalition member Todd Barnes asked the group whether they knew anything about the incident. “The DEC (the state’s environmental regulating authority) checks well sites. Do they know about this explosion? I’d like to know how much is known at the state level about this, and just what was blown out,” Barnes said.

“Who knows about this?” Chenango County Planning and Economic Development Committee Chair Linda E. Natoli asked. After ascertaining that not one of 15 county and municipal level planners in the boardroom had been informed, Natoli, R-City of Norwich, responded: “Somebody’s been trying to keep this a secret.”

One construction worker at the site was taken to Chenango Memorial Hospital for ear drum and eye injuries, according to the well’s operators, Nornew, Inc. Due to privacy policies, hospital officials could not confirm nor deny if or when anyone was treated for injuries related to a gas well accident.

Barnes told the Planning Board that he had personally seen an 18-inch by 2-foot chunk of well casing that had been blown into the air.

The well was drilled into the Oneida substrata on property owned by Edgar and Evelyn Blood. The couple leased a portion of their Preston land to Nornew, Inc. five years ago. When contacted following the meeting Tuesday, Edgar confirmed that an accident did occur in early July as the result of a faulty valve. He said it sounded “like an express train going through.”

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