Pennsylvania State Documents Reveal Rampant Water Contamination In Gas Sacrifice Zones
Several excellent articles have been posted recently about the inadequate, often shoddy, records keeping practices of The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. They’re linked here and shouldn’t be missed. Bottom line is, if you think PA DEP is actively protecting Pennsylvania’s water supplies from the impacts of shale gas drilling, think again.
In Open Records Case Produced Untracked Drilling Documents The Times-Tribune, May 19, 2013, Laura Legere writes:
“Scattered records kept by the state Department of Environmental Protection offer one answer to a key question in a new age of fossil fuel extraction in Pennsylvania: How many water supplies have been damaged by drilling?”
The Times-Tribune editors have even included a detailed groundwater complaints map with the help of the genius geeks at FracTracker.org, “a non-profit organization that collects, shares and visualizes data related to the oil and gas industry.”
Drilling Complaints Map, The Times-Tribune, May 19, 2013.
The same day, Iris Marie Bloom of Protecting Our Waters, posted Review of DEP Drilling Records Reveals Water Damage To At Least 161 PA Homes, Farms, Businesses; Murky Testing Methods.
Bloom explains the implications of the spotty and elusive information, which ought to have been readily available in accordance with Right To Know laws, yet was only obtained after the herculean efforts of a local newspaper:
“The article is detailed; explores the water-testing scandal PA DEP continues to be embroiled in; and does a good job with some complexities of gas drilling causing spikes in barium, strontium, total dissolved solids (tds) and other substances. Legere’s investigative research confirms that the total number of ‘officially counted’ impacted water wells and springs is much higher than PA DEP has revealed to the public, and shows how and why the actual number of fracking water contamination incidents could easily be much higher than the official story.”
According to Laura Legere in PA DEP Records Show at Least 161 Water Supplies Damaged By Drilling, The Citizens Voice, May 20, 2013:
“One in six investigations across the roughly five-year period – 17 percent of the records – found that oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source.”
Legere also notes, “While the records compiled by the newspaper offer a more complete tally of the number of affected properties than was previously available, the count is not exhaustive.”
Truth Will Out
While obtaining specific information from DEP has become all but impossible, determining DEP’s general records keeping practices has become equally convoluted. As as result, journalists and citizens are left to do DEP’s job for them, as is the case for FracTracker.org and the Pennsylvania Clean Water Alliance’s List of the Harmed. Clean Water Action and Pennsylvania Campaign for Clean Water are also building an open record. All serve to tell the untold stories of damage by a single industry, the complete lack of information and recourse, and the presumption that large swaths of Pennsylvania are to become industrial sacrifice zones.
Kudos to any local newspaper striving to do its job, despite the considerable expense of legal fees and work hours that suing for public records requires. The public owes them our thanks. And guess what? The Koch brothers want to buy up free-thinking newspapers like these, regardless of considerable union opposition.
Drillers’ Dirty Secrets Shielded By Act 13
On May 9, 2013, independent filmmaker and journalist Kirsi Jansa, Gas Rush Stories, covered a Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition public forum in Pittsburgh entitled, “Gas Drilling Records in Pennsylvania.” Access to our so-called open records was the topic.
Published on May 17, 2013: ”Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition organized a public forum “Gas Drilling Records in Pennsylvania” in Pittsburgh on May 9th, 2013. Media attorney Gayle Sproul, Associated Press correspondent Kevin Begos, PennFuture president and former PA DEP regional director George Jugovic and citizen activist Robert Donnan share their encounters with PA DEP. In the end of the video, Terry Engelder, a professor of geoscience and one of the leading authorities on Marcellus Shale drilling, expresses his thoughts about the event and about the state of openness and transparency in Pennsylvania.
Please help independent filmmaker & journalist Kirsi Jansa continue with this topic and support her Indiegogo campaign.
Watch the whole panel discussion here: vimeo.com/65981254
Desperately Seeking Sunshine
This is big. Thanks to the persistence of citizen activists, you can now read many of the letters PA DEP has sent to citizens regarding their compromised water supplies:
“Despite the oft-repeated gas industry canard that there are no confirmed cases of fracking contaminating water supplies, the following Determination Letters from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection clearly state that ‘gas well drilling’ has contaminated wells in Bradford County, in municipalities such as Granville, Tuscarora, Terry, Orwell, Wilmot and Monroe Townships, and in Alba Boro… The letters posted so far were obtained by Right to Know requests to the PA DEP filed by Vera Scroggins of ‘Citizens for Clean Water’ located in Susquehanna County.”
Update: DEP: Protecting the Energy Producers by Dory Hippauf, Frackorporation.wordpress.com