By Matt Hammer  |   July 10th, 2015
   
MEASUREMENT
 
Free Methane:  Because methane is colorless, odorless, and tasteless it cannot be readily detected without a combustible gas detector or meter.  This is why an odorant that can be smelled at very low leakage is added to natural gas sold to the public.  Using a meter, the presence of methane in air is commonly measured as a percent of the LEL.  It is important to understand the units being used and how they relate to each other.  For example, a meter reading of 10% LEL is equivalent to 0.5 % methane in air, or 5,000 ppm. 
 
Dissolved Methane:  Laboratory analysis of a water sample is required to determine the concentration of methane dissolved in water.  The resulting laboratory report will provide the concentration of dissolved methane as mg/l, or micrograms per liter (µg/l).  Again, it is important to understand the units being used: 1 mg/l is equal to 1,000 µg/l; the unit “µg/l” can also be expressed as parts per billion (ppb).  The maximum concentration of methane dissolved in water varies with temperature and pressure.  At 68oF and standard atmospheric pressure, the maximum dissolved concentration of methane in water is 28 mg/l; but when water is removed from a deep formation under higher pressure conditions, the concentrations can be higher.   
 
WHEN SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED?
 
Free Methane:   The U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) suggests the following action levels for detections of free methane (based on percentage in air):
 
For unoccupiable spaces, such as a well head: 
No Immediate Action – < 1%;
Warning: investigate/vent – >1% to <3%; and
Immediate Action: active venting/treatment – >3%.
 
For occupiable spaces of a home: 
No Immediate Action – < 0.25%;
Monitor trends – >0.25% to <0.5%;
Warning: investigate/vent – >0.5% to <1%; and
Immediate Action: active venting/treatment – >1%. 
 
State and local regulations should be consulted if free methane is detected in air at the warning levels indicated by the OSMRE guidelines.  Likewise, the installation of an appropriate gas venting system is advisable if methane is present. 
 
Dissolved Methane:  Generally, when dissolved methane is present at concentrations of less than 10 mg/l, it isn’t necessary to take immediate action.  State and local regulations should be consulted if dissolved methane is present in a water well at 10 mg/l or greater.   However, even at lower concentrations, the installation of an appropriate gas venting well cap is an inexpensive precaution.  When dissolved methane concentrations exceed 10 mg/l, or in accordance with state and local requirements, a properly qualified private water system contractor should be consulted to carefully select and install appropriate methane mitigation measures.  This may include the use of a vented well cap;  or the installation of a cistern, with or without an aeration device, to further reduce the concentrations of dissolved methane.   
 
For more information and resources you can download our Methane Fact Sheet HERE
Matt Hammer, Senior Project Manager
Matt has nearly 20 years of consulting experience in water resources and environmental investigation and remediation.  He has worked with clients in the oil and gas sector, the industrial sector, and with state and federal agencies.  His experience includes site characterization, predictive numerical modeling, data management and emergency response.  Matt’s training and specialization is in quantitative hydrogeology, including aquifer test design, and in numerical and analytical groundwater modeling.
 
He holds a Master of Science, Geological Sciences (Specializing in Hydrogeology) from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science, Geology from Miami University.
 
 
By Matt Hammer  |   July 7th, 2015
   
Methane is classified as a simple asphyxiant (impairs normal breathing) and explosion hazard. Methane is not known to be toxic and consuming water that contains methane does not present a health hazard. In addition, exposure to methane is not known to increase the chance of any type of cancer.
 
Methane is lighter than air and free methane gas may accumulate within an enclosed space such as a wellhead, subsurface well vault, or within a poorly ventilated basement or crawl space where it could present a risk of explosion if allowed to build up to concentrations above the Lower Explosion Limit (LEL).  The LEL is the lowest concentration capable of producing a flash, fire or explosion.  This concentration in air for methane is approximately 5.0% (50,000 parts per million (ppm)).  When oxygen levels fall below 18% due to displacement by methane, methane can result in asphyxiation (i.e., impairs normal breathing).  Methane dissolved in groundwater below its solubility (~28 milligrams per liter (mg/l)), is not flammable, however, at concentrations that exceed solubility, it can be ignited.   
 
For more information and resources you can download our Methane Fact Sheet HERE
Matt Hammer, Senior Project Manager
Matt has nearly 20 years of consulting experience in water resources and environmental investigation and remediation.  He has worked with clients in the oil and gas sector, the industrial sector, and with state and federal agencies.  His experience includes site characterization, predictive numerical modeling, data management and emergency response.  Matt’s training and specialization is in quantitative hydrogeology, including aquifer test design, and in numerical and analytical groundwater modeling.
 
He holds a Master of Science, Geological Sciences (Specializing in Hydrogeology) from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science, Geology from Miami University.
 
 
By Matt Hammer  |   July 2nd, 2015
   
questions about methane in groundwaterMethane (CH4) is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and combustible gas that typically makes up 70 to 98 percent of the mixture known as natural gas.  Methane is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon that can be found underground in both shallow and deep rock formations, including coal beds, and is also commonly associated with marshes and landfills.  Methane can be created by thermogenic processes under heat and pressure typical of deep formations; or by methanogenic processes that include carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction (to produce sub-surface microbial gas), and fermentation (to produce near-surface microbial gas) that is typical of shallow formations, landfills, or marshes. 
 
The presence of methane in water wells is relatively common.  It may occur naturally, generated within an aquifer (i.e., groundwater) source rock formation, or as the result of migration through natural pathways.  However, it may also be present when current or historical human activities such as landfills, coal mining and drilling for oil and gas create conditions for gas migration.    Methane can be present in a water well as a gas dissolved within the groundwater (dissolved gas) or as free gas.    
 
For more information and resources you can download our Methane Fact Sheet HERE
Matt Hammer, Senior Project Manager
Matt has nearly 20 years of consulting experience in water resources and environmental investigation and remediation.  He has worked with clients in the oil and gas sector, the industrial sector, and with state and federal agencies.  His experience includes site characterization, predictive numerical modeling, data management and emergency response.  Matt’s training and specialization is in quantitative hydrogeology, including aquifer test design, and in numerical and analytical groundwater modeling.
 
He holds a Master of Science, Geological Sciences (Specializing in Hydrogeology) from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science, Geology from Miami University.
 
 
By Kara Allison, APR  |   June 30th, 2015
   
Brownfields can be redeveloped into community assets in Appalachia. Insisting this was even possible to industry insiders just a decade ago would have likely invoked raised eyebrows – at a minimum – followed by hefty doses of skepticism. Without hesitation, experts well-versed in economic development and real estate could rattle off in quick order a laundry list of the challenges to redeveloping brownfields in Appalachia: legally-complicated and environmentally-decrepit sites left wasting away for too long; no available funding resources or deep pockets interested in paying for cleanup; a skilled workforce that moved away long ago in search of opportunities elsewhere; a lack of dedicated local or regional investment to support such a huge undertaking; crumbling infrastructure in desperate need of replacement; and the poverty – the unimaginable rates of community poverty. And a list of possible solutions to addressing brownfields in Appalachia? Even more difficult to come by.
 
Although the change in attitude has been many years coming, a new focus on brownfields is now slowly beginning to emerge across Appalachian communities. Local leaders and economic development officials are banding together with residents and business owners to begin developing regional best practices and “smart growth” approaches to redeveloping brownfields, including applying for funding assistance from federal agencies like U.S. EPA, EDA, and HUD. Communities are establishing local advisory committees focused on identifying brownfields and infrastructure challenges, and coming up with ways to address those issues one checklist item at a time. Appalachian communities are no longer looking at their brownfields as tarnished local liabilities, but rather are finding new ways to market these properties to national site selectors as future redevelopment assets. Helping to spur some of this new activity: the growth of the oil and gas industry in states like Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The shale boom is putting a new spotlight on long-overlooked communities in Appalachia and their available properties, and the investment is beginning to pay off in the form of new jobs, infrastructure improvements, and long-range community planning.
 
And others in the redevelopment world are taking notice, too. In fact, the Brownfields 2015 Conference, scheduled for September 2-4 in Chicago, will feature a planning session aimed specifically at Appalachian communities. “Tackling Brownfields in Appalachia: A Planning Roundtable” is set for September 3, 2015, at 12:45 p.m. in the Stevens Salon A-4 at the Hilton Chicago. This roundtable discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities facing Appalachian communities when it comes to redeveloping brownfield properties, including community planning, infrastructure, re-use of long-idled facilities, workforce development, and social issues. Designed as an informational planning forum, the session will assist Appalachian and other small communities in defining the issues surrounding brownfield redevelopment in economically-challenged areas of the country, while sharing tips, techniques, and case studies that will inspire creative ideas and collective sharing among the participants. The session also includes ideas for sustainable approaches to planning, assessment, and redevelopment that can be the spark to revitalizing Appalachian communities and help support economic market planning for new job growth. Featured experts in the session include Huntington, WV Mayor Steve Williams and Southern Ohio Port Authority Executive Director Jason Kester.
 
For more information about the Brownfields 2015 Conference, visit: http://www.brownfieldsconference.org. Information about the “Tackling Brownfields in Appalachia” planning session at the conference can be found at: http://www.brownfieldsconference.org/en/Session/2168?returnurl=%2fen%2feducation%2feducational_sessions.
Kara Allison, APR, Director of Communications, Government and Community Relations
Kara Allison directs Hull’s corporate communications and public affairs initiatives where she specializes in state and federal environmental policy and legislative issues, community outreach, media strategy, and crisis communications.  As a part of Hull’s funding team, she has assisted in securing more than $185 million in grants for brownfields, energy, and green development projects.  A journalism graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Kara has 20 years of experience in public and media relations.  She is a principal in the firm, an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America and a registered lobbyist in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
 
Kara builds credibility with legislators, government officials, municipalities, community groups, and reporters by helping them understand the various environmental issues associated with development projects.  She also works with developers and communities in public-private partnerships to help foster creative redevelopment and funding strategies for brownfield and renewable energy sites, and has been directly responsible for developing public relations and community outreach strategies for a number of high-profile, large-scale national redevelopment projects.  She routinely provides public outreach and media counsel and shares her in-depth regulatory, legislative and program knowledge with staff and clients. 
 
 
 
 
 
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