VERSAILLES, Pa. - There is no "silver bullet" to solve a decades-old methane problem in this Western Pennsylvania town, and the cost of minimizing the risk is unknown, federal and state officials say.
The officials, meeting in Versailles on Thursday, agreed the borough should immediately install methane detectors in several dozen residents' homes, begin repairing old gas vent pipes scattered throughout the borough, and research 12 locations pinpointed by federal surveyors as especially problematic.
But no cost estimate for the remediation was provided. Officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection said they were still calculating the costs and helping the borough identify possible sources of money to pay for the work.
Versailles, a borough of 1,700 people about 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, sits on about 175 poorly capped natural-gas wells drilled between 1919 and 1921. Houses are often just feet from gas wells. Some are built on top of the wells.
Over the years, gas seepage has forced residents to vent their properties. In some cases, houses have been demolished.
At the meeting, officials from the federal government's National Energy Technology Laboratory reviewed the findings of a two-year, $1 million Department of Energy study that was released on Oct. 31. The department said that remediation would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and would not completely solve the problem.
"There is no silver bullet," Brad Tomer, of the lab's Morgantown, W.Va., office, said.
Federal officials again insisted that potentially toxic levels of hydrogen sulfide found during their survey posed no danger to the public. The Associated Press revealed the dangerous levels of hydrogen sulfide in September. Hydrogen sulfide is so toxic that federal limits for exposure are extremely low.
Borough Council President Walt Winkler said the town was looking for a source to pay for $280 methane detectors for more than two dozen houses. Funding for more expensive remediation options is even farther away. The borough's annual budget, less than $900,000 for 2008, cannot cover such costs, he said.