Roland Senechal, who lives northwest of Drake, had a new water well drilled a number of years ago when the old one went bad. With the new well, he got more than water also shallow natural gas.
"Every time you open the faucet, it spits at you." said Senechal. He said the well is 294 feet deep.
Senechal said the well has plenty of water and he uses it for household use but runs it through a filter so the water tastes better.
He said most of his neighbors' wells are dug wells and they don't have any problems.
Fred J. Anderson, a geologist with the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck who is originally from Minot, recently visited with Senechal and other North Dakota residents about reports of natural gas in their water wells.
"This past summer we were investigating historical accounts and recent reports that have come into the NDGS (North Dakota Geological Survey) offices over the years of folks who have had or think they may currently have gas occurring in their water well in preparation for ground-water studies planned to better characterize shallow gas occurrence across eastern North Dakota," said Anderson.
Anderson said these types of gas occurrences in the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources study would be in a different group altogether from the "associated gas" that is produced from the traditional production of an oil and gas reservoir in the Williston Basin.
"These are considered to be shallow gas occurrences as opposed to natural gas produced from the deeper parts of the Williston Basin," Anderson said.
"Most folks across the state that have reported an occurrence have reported that they have 'bubbles in their water' or 'water that fizzes' or faucets that sputter and can sometimes be lit with a match," Anderson said.
He said this has been reported from wells in north-central (i.e. Renville-Bottineau counties) and southeastern North Dakota (LaMoure County) going as far back as the early 1900s.
In fact, he said, homesteaders in North Dakota used shallow natural gas for cooking or other residential uses.
"Today, what we have seen is that generally in the western part of the state where coals are present in the shallow subsurface and water wells happen to be commonly completed or 'screened' across these similar depths, these wells will often, but not always, have a show of natural gas in the produced waters. This type of natural gas could be considered as coal-bed methane or CBM," Anderson said.
"In the eastern part of the state, the geology underlying the glacial sedimentary cover is different than in the western part of the state, such that the shallow glacially derived aquifer sediments often contain ground-up or what geologists call detrital lignite within the permeable sediments that make up the aquifer. This also can provide a source for shallow natural gas generation and may be the cause of many of the gas shows that we see in shallow water wells in eastern North Dakota," he said.
"An additional interesting geological condition that may also be at work in eastern North Dakota is the presence of shallow Cretaceous age marine shales that underlie the thin glacial cover in the eastern and easternmost part of the state, like in the Fargo area," Anderson said. "These rock units also have organic material within them, as they are the sediments accumulated on ancient sea beds, with a potential to generate natural gas and some folks who have had a water well completed near or within these types of rocks, often for several decades, have reported possible shows of natural gas. Historically, in some accounts, it has been referred to as 'nuisance gas," Anderson said.
Anderson visited the Borg farm, southwest of Harwood, in September while investigating additional reported occurrences across southeastern North Dakota, and across the entire state, in preparation for planned ground-water studies throughout eastern North Dakota.
Vickie Borg said they've always known the water well on their farm in the Harwood area had gas in it. Her husband, Kenneth, was raised on the farm. She said they always used the water and it was fine for their uses.
"Sometimes the pipes in the house made a chugging noise with the gas going through," Borg said.
She said there was an incident about 12 years ago when their daughter went downstairs to wash clothes, started the washer and then opened it up again to put something else in. She dropped the lid of the top-loading washing machine and the lid hit a button on her pants. "It sparked and burnt her tummy," Borg said. Borg said her daughter was wearing a short top. It was a small blister but they took her to the emergency room to check the burn.
Of the gas in the water well at the Borg farm, "It is, to date, the most significant shallow gas occurrence that we have observed this far east in the state," Anderson said.
The Borgs now live in West Fargo and their son lives on the farm, Vickie Borg said.
Anderson said the gas is natural gas and "likely to be mostly biogenic methane what petroleum geologists and engineers would commonly call 'dry' gas, originating from shallow bedrock or organic laden aquifer sediments, and could be a combination of the two.
As far as any hazards of having natural gas in water, he said most likely the greatest potential hazard would be the ignitibility risk for gas accumulation in a confined space over time.
As for the health effects of methane gas, since it evaporates out of water, methane is not usually considered to present a health threat in drinking water, according to information from the Water Systems Council based in Washington, D.C.
For more information about the health hazards associated with methane in groundwater wells and some common mitigation measures visit (www.wellcare info on methane & groundwater).
Bob Schwan, who lives southeast of Surrey, said the water well at their place could be used for drinking water but it has a lot of sodium and rust in it so they hauled water from Minot. It also has gas.
"We"ve known it since we drilled the well," he said. He said they hooked up to rural water three or four years ago but still use the water for the garden and other uses at their place.
"Most of the wells around here are like that. It's just something if you live in country, you live with," he said.
Anderson also visited the Schwan place recently.
There's also been gas finds in the Velva area.
"Many of these shows are most likely associated with wells that are completed near or within coal seams," Anderson said. He said that area is on the northeastern extent of coal country.
There are no federal or state drinking water standards for methane.
Carl J. Anderson, Ground Water Protection Program manager with the North Dakota Department of Health's Divison of Water Quality in Bismarck, said if people are interested in having their wells tested, they can contact laboratories in their area to see if they can test for methane in water. The State Health Department laboratory cannot perform the test.
Fred J. Anderson said the N.D. Department of Mineral Resources is currently conducting investigations into the geochemical nature of the detected gas in order to better characterize how it is formed and what geologic environment that it is being generated similar to what they have done in previous years in the western part of the state.
He said it is difficult to determine at this point if there is a lot of this natural gas in the area.
"From the data that we have, it does appear to be more localized in nature, but additional investigation is required to better answer those types of questions," Anderson said.