Nighttime 'explosion' likely not due to seismic testing

ST. MARYS – Elk County residents placed several calls to emergency services personnel and law enforcement agencies Sunday night regarding what they described as a loud "boom." Although the source of the noise was initially attributed to seismic testing for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling, no cause or explanation has formally been discovered.According to several news sources, residents called 911 to report feeling and hearing a blast in Johnsonburg around 10:30 p.m. on Sunday evening. Other residents in the neighboring municipalities of Ridgway and Wilcox also called emergency services to report hearing a loud, explosion-type noise. Calls to Elk County's 911 were received at 9 p.m. from Jones Township, 10:15 p.m. from Ridgway and 10:30 p.m. from Jones Township. Police in those areas also received inquiries about the sound. The county's emergency officials turned the investigation over to the Pennsylvania State Police. The Ridgway-based PSP said they were called out to investigate a loud noise in the Wilcox area, but found no evidence of an explosion nor a source to which the sound could be attributed. Johnsonburg police were looking at seismic testing in the Dill Hill Road area as the probable cause; however, property owners there said seismic testing had not yet begun. Seismic testing involves using controlled dynamite blasts or special trucks to send energy into the earth. The sound waves created bounce off the various geological formations underneath the ground and the data is collected and analyzed to determine the location of oil and gas formations, and other subsurface features. Nancy Taylor, spokesperson for National Fuel Gas Company, said it is procedure for National Fuel and other utility companies to receive an 811-"Call Before You Dig" notification prior to any digging, drilling or blasting. She noted organizations completing seismic testing would be required to make that call.