DEP: Wells will not be capped over weekend

February 20, 2014
Katie Roupe/Observer-Reporter One worker remains missing after a gas well explosion near Bobtown in Dunkard Township on Tuesday, February 11. The intensity of the flames prevented crews from getting close to the fire at the Lanco wellhead.

BOBTOWN – Although it was anticipated the well-capping work at the Lanco 7H well site in Dunkard Township, where an explosion and fire occurred Feb. 11, would be completed by the weekend, “it will not be,” said Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Scott Perry.

“The well-capping work is ongoing and it will definitely push into next week,” Perry said. “Once they get things rolling, it should go smoothly. Chevron has thought through all of the contingencies that might be necessary. In a best case scenario, if something happens, it will delay things but they are prepared for it.”

As part of the operations to contain and cap the wells, the DEP provided Chevron contracted Wild Well Control with a temporary permit last week that would allow the company to draw 1.25 million gallons of water from Dunkard Creek per day if necessary.

Perry said only 31,500 gallons of water have been drawn to this point. It is stored in tanks on site in the event the wells would catch fire again. The fire that started with an explosion at the site Feb. 11 burned for five days before extinguishing itself Saturday.

“If things go the way they anticipate they won’t need anymore water than what they currently filled it (the tanks) with. They wanted to be able to keep refilling should they need to,” Perry said.

He wanted to be clear that when the operation to cap the wells is completed Chevron will use the water they have drawn at another well site.

“They can’t just dump it on the ground or in the stream without obtaining another permit,” Perry said.

Regarding the state police news conference addressing bone fragments found in the area of missing Cameron International employee, Ian McKee, 27, of Morgantown, W.Va., Greene County Coroner Gregory Rohanna issued a news release. Cameron International was subcontracted by Chevron to do work at the site. McKee, who had been with Cameron since March 2012, was a field technician for the company.

The release states, “the coroner’s office was notified and took possession of some items that we have identified as bones from the well site. At this point in time we have identified them as bones, but have not identified them as human or animal.”

It goes on to say the coroner’s office will release more information when the wells are capped and it is able to “gain safe access to the well site and investigate further.”

The family and friends of McKee held a prayer vigil in his hometown of Warren Feb. 13. A 2004 graduate of Warren High School, McKee lived in Morgantown with his fiancée, Danielle Desposito who is expecting their first child in July.

A statement from Nigel Hearne, vice president of Chevron Appalachian/Michigan Business Unit said, “It is with heartfelt sadness that we learned today (Wednesday) from the Pennsylvania State Police that investigators from their forensic services unit located remains at the Lanco well pad site. Our thoughts remain with the family, friends and co-workers of the missing worker, Ian McKee.”

Hearne referred questions regarding McKee to the state police or Cameron International. Community members with any questions about Chevron’s operations at the well pad site may call 877-847-8408.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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