Electronic Field Guide » Pre-Development Issues » Erosion Control

Prepared by Patrick Drohan (Ecosystem Science and Management)

Gas well construction involves extensive land disturbance from road, drilling pad, and pipeline development, and perhaps compressor stations. Various state regulations exist to protect surface water and groundwater from erosion and sedimentation due to these disturbances. Erosion and sedimentation plans are required. Enforcement of erosion and sedimentation problems related to gas well operations is overseen by personnel from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Bureau of Oil and Gas Management. See the Erosion and Sediment Pollution Control Program Manual for more details.
Landowner goals for post-development use may require additional protections against erosion and sedimentation. A good starting point for understanding how to reduce erosion and sediment runoff is the Pennsylvania Stormwater Best Management Practices Manual.
Some of the most important stormwater best management practices are to protect sensitive and high-value areas of the landscape such as springs and seeps; concentrate development on as small an area as possible; cluster well pads and other infrastructure as much as possible to minimize disturbed area and construction of related infrastructure; reduce impervious cover of land (e.g., surfaces such as asphalt that do not allow water infiltration); identify, protect, and use natural flow pathways to guide site design and for site drainage; and minimize soil compaction.
To help protect drinking water supplies from overland flow and water, sediment, and potential pollutant accumulation around a well, the state of Pennsylvania requires that gas wells be at least 200 feet from any drinking water supply. This setback may be waived by the water supply owner in a lease agreement. Gas wells must also be 100 feet from any stream, spring, or body of water. A 100-foot setback is also required from any wetland greater than one acre in size. DEP can grant a waiver of these setbacks if additional protection is put in place for these natural resources.
During dry conditions, dust generation may become a severe problem. Keeping dirt and gravel roads and other exposed places wetted down via spray from a water truck can help this problem.
In times of excess wetness, site access may be impossible due to mucky conditions, the generation of excess runoff, and potential stream pollution.