Pennsylvania

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EPA Chief Says More Data Needed on Dimock’s Water

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks to reporters at an event in Philadelphia on Friday.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson says her agency needs to conduct more tests before deciding whether or not to provide clean water to Dimock residents. About a dozen families living in the tiny Susquehanna County community say it’s still unsafe to drink their water three years after state environmental officials forced Cabot Oil and Gas to provide fresh water. But in November, the Department of Environmental Protection told Cabot it could halt deliveries. The residents have since relied on donated water.

Last week, some families say regional EPA officials promised to step in and deliver water. But a day later, the EPA reversed itself. Jackson told reporters at an event in Philadelphia on Friday that the reversal resulted from a “miscommunication.”

Jackson says her agency needs to conduct more tests, or get more information from the DEP.

“We got data from the state,” said Jackson. “But we haven’t gotten it all. And we want to make sure we have all the data they have.”

Jackson says the EPA may need to do more of their own tests. In the meantime, residents say they’re suffering now. A group of activists rallied outside the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia where Jackson was speaking on urban sustainability.

Dimock resident Victoria Switzer was there and spoke to the crowd.

“I’m here today because I want the P in EPA not to stand for politics, but I want it to stand for protection.”

Switzer says enough data already exists to prove her water is toxic.

Administrator Jackson says she understands Switzer’s frustration.

“But this isn’t a situation where EPA could come in and say water for everyone,” said Jackson. “Someone’s paying for that water, that’s the federal government. And we have to make sure we’re meeting the scientific and legal test that would allow us to do that.”

The EPA lacks authority to step in if water is contaminated by oil or gas directly. But if they do find evidence of chemical contamination as a result of the drilling process they will be able to provide relief.

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