Seismic testing may take place on SMASD property

Representatives from Elexco Land Services and EQT Production spoke before the St. Marys Area School District board at Thursday's workshop meeting regarding Elexco's plans to conduct seismic testing on 14.12 acres of school district property encompassing and including the site of the Bennetts Valley Elementary School. Ron Wheelis of Elexco said the only presence of equipment at the school will be a receiver cable which is designed to collect data as shots are discharged or vibration trucks operated. Wheelis said they plan to run the cable, which he described as a passive device no bigger than an extension cord, across a corner of school district property, in the area of the baseball fields located on the other side of state Route 255. "The receiver line will run on the property, we could run that right up against the school and it will not hurt nothing. We can walk it [receiver cable] across your property, it will be on the ground about two or three weeks. You can drive over it, if you, if maintenance needs to mow the grass just call me and we can move it," Wheelis said. Wheelis said that as part of this project, they will be drilling a hole four inches in diameter and 20 feet deep using a two-and-a-half-pound charge packed with bentonite, an absorbent clay formed from volcanic ash, and they will observe laws and industry standards which dictate energy sources or incendiary devices must be kept at a minimum of 300 feet from any structure. Wheelis added that the company would be willing to include a stipulation which would require them to maintain even greater distances from the property with any source or energy point. "What we can do to make everybody comfortable, we can include a stipulation saying that we will not come within 500 to 600 feet of the school," Wheelis said. Wheelis said that the project is scheduled to begin in February or March, with a hazard survey team "pre-plotting" the property, and expected to continue through the summer. "We are shooting a minimum of 170 square miles, this is one portion of a larger project. We'll roll through and from the time you first see the cables laid out from the time they are picked up and moved on will be about a three-to-four-week period," Wheelis said. "With that said, you will see flagging being put up by surveyors sometime this spring so they know where to put shots and receivers and that will take a couple months," said Joel Starr, a geophysicist with EQT Production.Starr said that if done correctly, seismic testing "will leave no footprints." "With seismic testing the sooner we get done, the sooner we can get out of people's hair," he said.Asked by board member John Healy if the activity could pose a disruption for class, Starr said that beyond 100 feet, the charges will likely go unnoticed.