Seismic testing to occur at Mingo park

April 30, 2014
With a map of Mingo Creek County Park underneath, Washington County Director of Administration Scott Fergus displays a photo of the seismic testing device that will be used at the park by McDonald Land Services. - Barbara S. Miller / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Pink and white ribbons that will be appearing in Mingo Creek County Park have nothing to do with spring decorations and everything to do with seismic testing related to potential natural gas extraction from the Marcellus Shale.

The ribbons will mark the location of devices known as seven-pound “geophones” and “geospace seismic recorders” used to indicate traits of the layers beneath the surface of the 2,200-acre park.

Scott Fergus, Washington County director of administration, reported Wednesday to county commissioners that the seismic testing at the park is part of a larger effort beginning at the Monongahela River and working its way westward, and that the county negotiated “the best terms” so that tests conducted within the park will be as minimally intrusive as possible.

“They’re doing 100,000 square miles,” Fergus said.

Helicopters and explosive charges have been prohibited within park acreage, Fergus said, and the geophones and recorders, to be distributed only by crews on foot, are to be kept away from playgrounds and hiking and horseback riding trails.

“We can’t have people setting off charges in our park as they’re doing with other property owners,” Fergus said.

The Washington County commissioners are expected to vote on the contract with McDonald Land Services at their 10 a.m. meeting today. Ribbons and geophones are to be in place before Memorial Day weekend and vibroseis trucks are scheduled to work from public roads within the park from 6:30 a.m. to noon June 23 and 24, depending on weather, ending by June 26. All equipment and markers are to be removed once the seismic testing is complete. No work is to be done Friday through Sunday.

“In turn, we’re going to get $11,275,” Fergus said.

Asked if the seismic testing is a prelude to oil and gas extraction beneath the park, Fergus replied, “When and if the park is leased, it’s important to have the seismic testing done.”

Test results will be shared with “whoever the successful driller would be,” Fergus said. “There’s a big fault going through here somewhere that’s 600 feet. One of the reasons they do tests to try to determine where the faults are.”

When the county created the park some 40 years ago, several of the former landowners retained their oil and gas rights.

“They did this at Lone Pine Country Club with the charges a year or two ago while you played golf,” Fergus said. “Let me make it clear, that is not happening at Mingo.”

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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