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‘Seismic survey shoot’ raises concerns in Franklin County


BENTON — Residents of a Benton neighborhood are questioning the intentions of an energy company after receiving letters regarding an upcoming “seismic survey shoot.”

Seismic surveys, sometimes using small explosive charges, are often used to gather subsurface data for oil and gas exploration.

The letters from the Woolsey Energy II office in Marion advised residents of the south side neighborhood that the company holds the oil and gas leases on their properties and that those leases provide “for such seismic activity in order to conduct a complete geophysical seismic program for oil and gas drilling and production purposes.”

A crew will begin surveying the lands in the next two weeks for the “placement of geophone receivers along with the placement sites for the drilling of the dynamite shot hole chargers,” according to the letter.

Woolsey Energy, which did not respond to a request for information, is the holder of a large number of oil and gas leases in Southern Illinois and is expected to use the controversial high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing drilling process.

The Woolsey letter came as a surprise to residents in the neighborhood as well as Benton Mayor Gary Kraft.

The city had no notification of the upcoming survey, Kraft said.

“We have our city attorney looking into it,” he said. “We’ll see what our ordinances say and go from there.”

Rocky Morris has lived on Benton’s south side for 17 years and said the letter raised both questions and concerns.

“Are they going to be fracking within the city limits of Benton? The letter doesn’t say,” Morris said. “As I was reading the letter and got to the part about drilling holes to put dynamite in, the first thing I thought about was the old mine shafts out here. As a former coal miner, I started thinking about methane. If you get a spark around methane, you’ve got an explosion.”

He is also concerned about the potential for damage to the city’s water and sewer lines, some more than 100 years old.

“If this is something that provides an economic upswing and jobs, I’m all for it but I want to get some answers to make sure the community is protected and taxpayers aren’t left holding the bag,” he said. “All the letter did was make me aware that my property was going to be the site of a survey. I think the company needs to have a Q and A session so people can get some answers.”

Morris said he and other concerned neighbors will attend the Benton City Council meeting Monday to find out what the city attorney has learned about the upcoming survey.


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