Several explosive charges placed by mistake on Portage Water Authority property in July were detonated Wednesday with no apparent damage to water wells that serve thousands of borough residents.
The wells will continue to be monitored to make sure no problems develop, the authority's attorney, William G. Barbin of Johnstown, said Thursday. Barbin said the only question now is to determine how long the wells should be monitored.
"Probably they [the explosions] won't have any effect. Probably there is no harm. But the value of the wells is so great [to Portage residents] ... You can never predict," Barbin said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and Appalachian Geophysical Services LLC, the company that placed the charges, contend two days of monitoring should be enough to see if the wells were damaged by the blasts.
The authority would like the monitoring to occur for a year.
AGS of Killbuck, Ohio, paid for the monitoring equipment, Barbin said.
Investigations into the faulty placement of the charges are underway by DEP and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, DEP spokeswoman Helen Humphreys said. No citations have been filed.
The issue of the explosive charges became public last week when AGS filed a federal lawsuit asking for an injunction to allow it to return to authority land and detonate the charges, noting that it was dangerous to allow them to simply remain in the ground. The lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court in Johnstown.
The Portage authority did not want AGS to explode the charges without assurance that its two major wells at Benscreek and Martindale would be unscathed.
Both wells are several thousand feet from the location of the charges, Barbin said, but the authority wanted to make sure if the wells are destroyed, they will be replaced.
AGS placed explosive charges packed in 20-foot-deep holes in June and July as a way to map the underground strata and to locate natural gas reserves for Chief Oil and Gas Co.
The company stopped placing charges on authority ground when company officials realized a mistake had been made, AGS President Pat McGonagle said.
A DEP explosives inspection report indicated that initially, it was difficult to find the location of the explosive charges, court documents state. Once found, the sites were marked with a GPS unit.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.