TIOGA - Visitors to Tioga-Hammond and Cowanesque lakes in Tioga County may notice an increase in industrial activity as workers continue their seismic survey along Route 287 and Crooked Creek above Hammond Lake.
According to Marilyn Jones, lakes operations manager, the testing is being done by Shell Gas.
"We wanted to make sure we were letting our visiting public and hunting public know about the testing so they weren't taken by surprise," Jones said.
Visitors may notice helicopters, industrial equipment or flags placed around the testing area. Crews will be setting up from helicopters, on foot or from vehicles.
"If people see things laying around or hikers come across flags, it's important not to disturb anything," Jones said.
Jones explained that Shell's permit only allows it to put "seismic phones," or audio listening devices, on public land. It does not include equipment such as vibroses, or trucks that lower metal pads that vibrate upon the ground.
"They are not doing actual vibrating here; no type of seismic device will be used on public lands," she added.
Christopher Burke, an environmental geologist with more than 35 of experience, explained that the process of extracting data from seismic testing actually is a simple concept and is relatively non-invasive to the environment.
"Seismic testing is used to determine the density of the rock layers in a given area, to identify where the oil and gas are trapped," Burke said.
There are various ways to do seismic testing, he said, but the result always is the same. Workers set up what essentially are microphones, called "seismic phones," at various points around an area. Then they set off some type of "charge" - anything that will create a predetermined amount of soundwaves.
Testing can also be done via helicopter in areas unsuitable for vibrator trucks. In this type of testing, a helicopter lowers a drill to the ground at the end of a long cable. The drill bores a hole into the ground and small charges are placed down into the hole. The charges are set off, and seismic phones record audio information from the charges.
"By measuring how long that soundwave takes to travel through the different layers of rock, they can determine the density of the layers," Burke said.
Jones said the lakes have several companies that are seeking permits to do seismic testing within the area.