Portage County: Is methane in water unhealthy?

6:54 PM, Jan 11, 2013   |    comments
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GARRETTSVILLE -- The Kline family will never play with fire near their tap because it can explode. There's a high concentration of methane gas in their well water.

It may be due to nature because the well was drilled into shale where methane can escape. Or perhaps an oil and gas drilling operation across the street may have a connection.

"Fracking is happening in about thirty states and, unfortunately, this family in Ohio is not alone. People are reporting water contamination near fracking sites across the country and state investigators found it in Colorado and Pennsylvania," says Amy Mall, senior analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The drilling company, Mountaineer Keystone, paid for testing before drilling began that showed methane was present in the family's well water.

But it was at an acceptable level. After drilling began, methane levels more than doubled. 

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it's aware of the issue and investigating and the company supports the state investigation, but adds that there are many natural variables that can cause methane levels to change.

Debby Kline worries about her family. They no longer drink the water, but they do bathe in it.

"We don't know the risk of sitting in gas water, we just don't have a choice," Debby says.

While it definitely poses a fire risk, University Hospitals Dr. Lyla Blake says the water is safe to use for bathing, cooking and drinking as long as the levels are not excessively high, partly because if ingested, it's rapidly eliminated from the body.

The levels at the Kline home are cause for concern and corrective action but, according to the ODNR, not an immediate hazardous risk.

Little consolation for a family facing nearly $8,000 in corrective repairs to vent and separate the gas they say they can't afford.


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