Gas wells threatening region's archaeological sites
runs through the middle of a farm on the north fork of Ten Mile Creek in Washington County is threatening the land, according to a Greene County archeologist who goes there to find artifacts and hunt.
The property is just one of many in southwestern Pennsylvania on the radar of Ken Gayman of Carmichaels, who is pushing
to protect archeological sites that he believes are being damaged or
destroyed by oil and gas extraction operations.
“There are no provisions in the Oil and Gas Act
to protect any archaeological and historic sites,” said Gayman. “Some date back 8,000 years.”
John Nass, anthropology professor at California University of Pennsylvania, called the potential disturbance of artifacts “a pressing issue.”
“It’s a major problem,” said Marc Henshaw, former president of the Mon-Yough Archaeological Society and member of its board of trustees.
Henshaw said that some oil and gas companies are not conducting property surveys before they drill, which is impacting archaeological sites.
He added the DEP doesn’t require property surveys when a company is drilling on a parcel of land that is less than 5
acres. That creates a problem when gas and oil companies purchase
numerous acres and split them into smaller parcels, Henshaw said.
Hundreds of archaeological investigations are conducted yearly in Pennsylvania, in compliance with the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act and the Pennsylvania History Code, according
to the state Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), which evaluates various sites for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
“However, most gas well development sites fall outside of federal or state law and policy when it comes to historic and archaeological resources,” the PHMC website reports.
Proposed gas drilling projects do not come to PHMC for review to determine if they will have an impact on historic and archaeological resources — unless the projects involve a federal permit, or an area that is more than 10 acres, according to the site.
“As a result, neither the developers nor the PHMC
are aware of historic and archaeological resources that could be
impacted by such projects,” according to the PHMC site.
Gayman said drilling companies should hire a certified archaeologist to survey a property before constructing any
well pads, compressor stations, impoundment ponds used to store water, pipelines and roads leading to them to determine that they are not destroying any archaeological or historical sites.
“I recommend a provision be adopted in the Oil and Gas Act to protect these sites for myself and all the people in Pennsylvania,” said Gayman.
A member of several historical and archaeological organizations in Washington and Greene counties, Gayman serves as president of Izaak Walton League of America Shawnee Chapter of Washington County.
Additionally, Gayman chairs the Historic and
Esthetic program for the Shawnee Chapter of Washington County and the Harry Enstrom Chapter of Greene County.
“My concern is if they do it, then do it the right way so they don’t pollute the water and destroy archaeological sites,” said Gayman, who is also a member of the Mon-Yough Archaeological Society of Pennsylvania Chapter 3.