Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

June 13, 2013

'Then it turned the color of milk'

KALKASKA — Something odd happened to Phyllis Senske’s water.

The Rapid River Township resident has used well water for decades. About a week ago, she and her husband, Bernard, noticed their pump kept running at night and the water took longer to come out of the faucets.

“Then it turned the color of milk,” Phyllis said.

The milky color came from dissolved air bubbles slowly rising and dissipating. One test on the well conducted last week showed its water level dropped by 11 feet.

Changes to the Senskes’ water coincided with Encana Oil & Gas using groundwater to fracture bedrock for a natural gas well on land adjacent to their Wood Road property in Rapid River Township. The company had to purchase municipal water last week when it had trouble drawing sufficient groundwater for fracking at the well.

“I’m inclined to believe they drew way too much water out of the aquifer,” Phyllis Senske said.

Encana spokesman Doug Hock said the company coordinated with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to take a precautionary sampling of the Senskes’ and their neighbors’ wells.

“These are issues we take seriously, which is why we act quickly,” Hock said.

Hock said the well level may have dropped from the fracking operation, but the company’s monitoring wells showed the aquifer’s water level regenerated over a two-day period.

Chris Grobbel, a Traverse City environmental consultant with Grobbel Environmental & Planning Associates, conducted the test that found the 11-foot drop in the water level. The test was commissioned by the Anglers of the AuSable.

Grobbel said the drop was “enormous.”

“I would bet the oil and gas company was in the same (water) system because they’re able to impact the neighbor’s water,” he said.

Grobbel said the bubbles in the Senskes’ water likely came from the well drawing air. He is conducting tests for contaminants, but does not expect any to be found.

Phyllis Senske said the water has not changed in smell or taste and she does not believe it’s tainted.

“I wasn’t afraid to taste it and use it, but there’s not much of it,” she said.

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