Elinor West remembers when her father dug wells for many years that he always had a concern about natural gas in the water wells.
"They (her parents) worried a lot about it as Dad often had to go down into a well when striking a rock to place a stick of dynamite on it and then have his helper quickly bring him up with the help of the machine and the horse that powered it," she said.
"That's why we always had to have a hired man until my brothers were old enough to help," she said.
This photo, taken by Elinor West in the early 1940s, shows her father, William Kronbach, right, of Ryder, with his well-boring machine that was powered by horse. Also shown in the photo are his children: back, from the left, Konrad, Marilyn and George; and front, from the left, Robert holding the family dog Pepper, and two neighbor boys. The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources is studying many historical and present-day accounts of gas in water wells.
This photo, taken in 1944, shows two of the Kronbach children, Konrad and Marilyn, standing near the pump of a well that their father dug in Ryder. A well digger starting in 1916, their father worried about natural gas when he was digging wells.
The Minot Daily News reported in an Oct. 28 story that the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources in Bismarck is investigating historical accounts and recent reports that have come into the North Dakota Geological Survey offices over the years of people who have had or think they may currently have gas in their water wells.
The investigation is in preparation for ground-water studies planned to better characterize shallow gas occurrences in North Dakota, said Fred J. Anderson, originally from Minot, a geologist with the Mineral Resources Department.
"These are considered to be shallow gas occurrences as opposed to natural gas produced from the deeper parts of the Williston Basin," Anderson said.
The Oct. 28 story cited incidents in areas including Drake, Harwood, Surrey and Velva. Anderson said reports of gas in wells in north-central and southeastern North Dakota go back as far as the early 1900s.
"What we are planning on, going forward, is additional investigative activity of wells that were identified in the field screening work to be of additional interest, based on their hydrogeologic setting and their potential to add additional insight to other questions related to shallow gas origin," Anderson said.
West, who lives in Woodburn, Ore., and is originally from Ryder in southwest Ward County, recently provided information about the years when her father, William Kronbach, was digging water wells, beginning in 1916 when he bought a well-boring machine. Over the years he dug hundreds of wells, she said. She said he dug the wells in the Ryder area as well as in other areas including Plaza, Makoti, Roseglen-Raub and Douglas. Her brother, Konrad, carried on the business after his father.
One of the wells that William Kronbach dug is west of where the family home once stood on the east side of Ryder. "A lot of people got their drinking water there," West said.
When she read Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, "Little House on the Prairie," West said the author described digging a well with a spade and bucket and also told about the gas that stays deep in the ground.
Anyone who thinks that he or she has water with gas in it should contact the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources at 328-8000 or email Fred J. Anderson at (firstname.lastname@example.org).