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UPDATE: Ponoka couple’s well-water polluted by nearby oil and gas activity

On January 19, the Red Deer chapter of the Council of Canadians and the Alberta Surface Rights Group co-sponsored a screening of the documentary ‘Gasland‘ in Ponoka, that included a presentation by Ronalie Campbell on the contamination of her ranch’s well water due to oil and gas activity in the area.

At the event, Ronalie Campbell noted in her presentation, “We thank the Council of Canadians and the Alberta Surface Rights Group for inviting us to be part of this event and for everyone who braved the cold to come learn about this vital issue. We first met Maude Barlow, chair of the Council, when she came to Alberta to view the tar sands. She has dedicated her life to the protection of water and we applaud her for that. We have attended many of the Alberta Surface Rights Group events and want to thank them for their dedication to bringing information to the public. So that is why we are here.”

She added, “Shawn and I moved to a beautiful ranch in this community 15 years ago. We thought it was about reducing our work load and finding an easier lifestyle. But God had other plans for us. He blessed us with a love for this community, then it appears, said, ‘I’ve got a task for you in this new place’ and so our adventure began. We had excellent water for 8 years and then in 2005 the production from our house well dropped so much that it could not replenish itself. …Since we had another high volume well that was plentiful for the livestock, we decided to pipe that into our house. Within a couple days, it became apparent that there was something in the water. A lab test revealed methane, ethane, propane, butane and isobutane.”

The story, as summarized by a Red Deer Advocate article in December 2011, continues, “Ponoka-area cattle farmers say their water well is getting increasingly more contaminated with ‘extremely explosive and deadly’ hydrocarbons and sour gas — and Alberta’s energy regulator isn’t acting quickly enough to protect them. Shawn and Ronalie Campbell are concerned that their water well is now 10 times as polluted as when it was tested several years ago. The couple haven’t been using the contaminated well on their property for drinking, but only stopped showering and laundering clothes in the water this fall when the latest test results became known. …Ronalie believes the depth of the contamination indicates it was caused by oil and gas activity in the area. But the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) sees no evidence of this.”

That article highlights, “A 2009 report commissioned by the ERCB accepts that deeper gas migration could have occurred by historic fractures created by a former resource company called PanCanadian in the 1980s, she said. …If methane gases from different depth levels mixed together in the water, then the combination might not be traceable to a particular source, Ronalie suggested. ‘I don’t care what energy well it is, at this point. We know it’s from an energy source…’ She’s particularly upset that the ERCB is advising them to fix the problem, instead of industry doing it.”

To read Rosalie’s full comments at the January 19 event, please go to http://www.albertasurfacerights.com/articles/?id=1569. The Red Deer Advocate article is at http://www.reddeeradvocate.com/news/provincial/Couple_claims_energy_exploration_contaminates_their_water_136225198.html.

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