County moves to protect water from gas drilling

NORWICH – Chenango County officials continued to educate themselves about enviromentalists’ concerns that natural gas drilling activity might possibly pollute the region’s drinking water and surface water.

Environmental Health Director Glenn Kaiser was on hand at a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee last week to outline the county’s role in protecting its water sources. He said his office would begin more regular communication with the state’s environmental conservation department, especially as each well is permitted, and obtain baseline water samples from municipal water systems.

The natural gas company Nornew, Inc. has drilled about 13 wells in several towns, with one presently underway in Coventry. With new technology available to reach the highly profitable and abundant Marcellus Shale formation located under much of the county, some town supervisors have predicted the number of wells could number more than 150 in the not-so-distant future.

All of the drilled wells are into natural gas sources in the Herkimer, Utica, Oneida or other substrata. Only one well - in the Beaver Meadow region - is so far permitted to be drilled into the widely-publicized Marcellus.

Though state regulations prohibit drilling within 2,600 feet of a water source, Kaiser said he was concerned that private individuals could have leased land near a municipal well. “I have some concern. It hasn’t happened yet, as far as I know,” he said.

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