— By CHRISTIN COYNE
Several people, including a few Azle-area residents concerned about recent earthquakes, showed up Saturday to watch Steve Lipsky light his well water on fire during an open house at Lipsky’s Silverado on the Brazos residence.
Lipsky, frustrated after more than four years of dealing with gas in his water and legal battles regarding the issue, invited the public to hear his side of the story and see the gas in his well in south Parker County.
Despite a 2011 letter from Range Resources declaring his water safe to drink, Lipsky said the gas in his well has only gotten worse and he continues to have to truck in water to use.
Lipsky said the EPA and other researchers have told him that the contamination was caused by wells drilled by Range Resources near his home. However, Range Resources says the gas is naturally occurring, something the Texas Railroad Commission agreed with in 2011 after a hearing in which Lipsky and the EPA did not participate.
Geoffrey Thyne, who analyzed water samples from more than 30 area wells for the EPA and recently conducted additional independent research on the issue, told the Associated Press that at least two wells show that the gas comes from the same source as gas in Range’s wells and that the contamination appears to be spreading and getting worse in some areas.
Thyne said he believed Range used a different sampling method.
Duke University, which also did testing at many area homes, is also expected to soon release a report on their findings of the situation.
Even when the gas coming from a headspace vent on the well or the spigot of water isn’t lit, gas can be seen coming from the well and containers of water taken from the well bubble like champagne.
Shelly Perdue, who lives near Lipsky on Lake Country Drive, a much less wealthy neighborhood, said she has lived in her home for 17 years but only noticed an issue with her water in April 2009, the same month the first of two nearby Range Resources’ wells were completed.
She doesn’t drink or cook with the water but does shower and otherwise use the gassy water.
The first testing showed 50 times an explosive level of methane but she doesn’t know what the current levels are, according to Perdue, who shares a home with her 21-year-old son.
Though researchers testing her water and the air have told her not to live in her home due to dangerous levels of gas, Perdue said it is her home and moving out isn’t a possibility.
Perdue said she spends as much time outside her house as possible and leaves the windows and doors open as much as the weather permits.
Despite ventilating her water twice before it reaches the house and attempts to ventilate her home, she gets many headaches, Perdue said.
“In the winter time, it scares me even worse,” Perdue said.
When it is cold outside she is forced to use propane for heat despite concerns about potentially dangerous levels of gas in her house, according to Perdue.
Lipsky said he is worried about similar situations with some of his other neighbors, as well.
Duke University researchers found that three of his neighbor’s wells had higher levels of gas than his own, according to Lipsky.
Last week, Lipsky, Perdue and other neighbors received the results of testing of samples collected in September by the Texas Railroad Commission after some Parker County residents made additional complaints. However, because they don’t have a scientific background, they aren’t sure what the information in the lab reports means.
“Commission staff is currently evaluating the data,” the letter provided by Lipsky states. “Commission staff will share its findings following completion of the investigation. In the meantime, based on the occurence of methane in your water well, RRC staff suggests that you properly ventilate and aerate your water.”
It is not clear when the oil and gas regulator’s investigation will be complete.