STRATHROY, ON, May 18, 2012 /CNW/ - A geological formation containing pressurized natural gas was encountered during the drilling of a vertical borehole for a geothermal heating system in Oakville last month resulting in the evacuation of at least one house. The Ontario Ground Water Association (OGWA) supports concerns expressed by Oakville Mayor Rob Burton that this is an explosive situation.
It is well known within the drilling community that drillers routinely encounter gaseous wells within Southern Ontario and this would not be considered an uncommon occurrence by any stretch of the imagination. The driller training program at Fleming College in Lindsay teaches that natural gases can be encountered anywhere in Ontario except when drilling in granite.
The Ontario Water Resources Act, Regulation 903, currently requires insurance coverage and ongoing technical training for licencing of water well drilling. Unfortunately, there is no mandatory requirement in Ontario for a geothermal driller to have a well contractor or well technician licence.
Unregulated geothermal drilling by untrained, and sometimes unlicensed and uninsured drillers has led to a number of serious problems, including flowing wells causing millions of dollars in damage, interference with neighbouring wells causing loss of potable water, and now this potentially explosive situation. The OGWA strongly advocates the proper sealing of all boreholes.
What cost do you put on public safety? It is this relentless pressure to keep costs down that has resulted in a systemic practice within the heating/air-conditioning industry to overlook the qualifications of the drillers as well as the quality of loop installations. Any driller who attempts to take all precautions as well as maintain a high quality installation, including proper sealing has difficulty competing within the residential geothermal market.
The majority of geothermal drillers are experienced and responsible but they will always be competing in an extremely aggressive marketplace that often pays more attention to the cost of installation than quality.
Without an Ontario regulation, the OGWA believes the public will continue to be at risk and asks that our provincial government move quickly to modify the existing Regulation to encompass the drilling of geothermal boreholes.
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