Pennsylvania

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Environmental Group Says EPA’s Dimock Results Show Fracking Polluted Water

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

Protesters urge EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to intervene in Dimock's water woes last December.

Water Defense, the anti-fracking environmental group formed by actor Mark Ruffalo, disputes the EPA’s conclusions about Dimock’s water tests. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released water test results from 20 households in the Susquehanna County township. The EPA says analysis of those tests reveal the water is safe to drink.

But Claire Sandberg, of Water Defense, disagrees with the EPA’s conclusion. She says those very same tests show contamination.

“The preliminary results EPA Region 3 has released so far show that 20 percent of wells tested contain dangerous concentrations of methane. When the water that flows into your pipes has levels of methane that high, you are essentially living inside a bomb that could explode at any moment. And that is not safe.”

Sandberg says the evidence shows fracking by Cabot Oil and Gas, contaminated Dimock’s water supply. The EPA decided in January to test 60 private water wells in Dimock after the state Department of Environmental Protection cleared Cabot from providing free water to residents. They released the first 11 test results in March, which showed higher than normal levels of arsenic in two wells. The EPA continues to provide water to three households in Dimock, but they say nothing in the tests so far indicates the water would be unsafe to drink. The agency says their role is not to determine how contaminants entered the water, only to test whether or not the water is safe to drink.

Comments

  • Mike Knapp

    I love the reporting that you guys do, but Mark Ruffalo  is an actor, not a scientist. Does anyone care about how Gary Busey feels about Dimock? What about Lady Gaga?  Why does StateImpact PA continue to cover Water Defense’s critiques as if they are the equal counterpoint to the legions of scientists and water quality specialists at the PA DEP and US EPA that have conducted and reviewed these studies?

    I enjoyed the story where you talked to the Dimock folks themselves, I can even see you wanting to cover the fact that Ruffalo is doing what he’s doing… its contradictory to my view, but it’s news.  But they have no scientific expertise, and it shows.  Their assertion that methane in the water is causing an explosion hazard is an absolute lie (or ignorance, but at this stage in the game, they really ought to know what the hell they’re talking about).  A simple vent and aerator will remove nearly all methane, and those have been offered by the gas company to all residents, free of charge.  

    The fact is that the EPA and the DEP has both definitively stated that there are no health concerns with the water in Dimock.  When the EPA agreed to come out and test, Water Defense praised them as knights in shining armor, and looked forward to the results of the testing.  Now that the tests came back proving that their allegations are untrue, they have done nothing but throw them under the bus.  Very telling. 

    Unless Water Defense can prove, with science instead of press releases, that the water in Dimock is foul, they deserve little more of the media’s precious spotlight. 

  • Raul

    Also, I believe the AP article stated this:
    “Importantly, the EPA again did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area, particularly given the fact that any contaminants are more likely indicative of naturally occurring background levels or other unrelated activities,” the statement said.* 
    Not only did they say that it was safe to drink, but the EPA also says any contamination was  naturally occurring and not associated with the Cabot wells.  

  • imforit

    “This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take immediate action,” said Roy Seneca, a spokesman in EPA’s regional office in Philadelphia.”

    To which one might want to add:  Watch out for those key words such as ”immediate” as shown in the above quote/article from Philly.com.  Makes me wonder when action might be considered. 

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