EPA Says Dimock Water Requires More Testing, PA DEP Says Drink Up!

I love it when the EPA asserts itself. Inevitably, state officials accuse them of “overstepping” their “bailiwick,” but I take comfort knowing the feds’ attention is on the shale gas industry, scrutinizing their activities in our state, ensuring that the PA DEP is getting the job done right. Pro-gas conservatives have called the EPA “a jobs killer.” I say, let them hire more scientists! My fondest wish would be for the PA DEP and the EPA to do more than simply play nice in the sandbox, I’d like to see them work together in serious and concerted tandem. That would represent a truly functioning Republic, to my mind, though it seems less likely everyday. Luckily, we don’t have to pick a winner – yet.
Laura Legere, Staff Writer for The Times-Tribune has been covering Marcellus Shale drilling from the start. In her last article of what must have been a crazy-busy year, she reports on the EPA’s final salvo of 2011. In her December 31st piece, EPA: Dimock water supplies ‘merit further investigation, Legere writes:

Federal environmental regulators are reopening their review of Dimock Twp. water supplies after recently released tests of the water wells taken by a natural gas drilling contractor were found to “merit further investigation.”

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were in Dimock Thursday and Friday to visit residents whose water supplies were found by state regulators to have been tainted with methane from Cabot Oil and Gas Corp.’s Marcellus Shale drilling operations.

After a preliminary review of results from water tests taken earlier by the state, Cabot and other outside firms, the EPA wrote to the residents on Dec. 2 to say the information they had gathered “does not indicate that the well water presents an immediate health threat to users.”

But in an information sheet provided to residents during visits this week, the EPA wrote that it “has recently received additional Cabot data from residents that merit further investigation.” The EPA is now “concerned about” potential gaps in water sampling and test results, the number of water supplies potentially affected, if residents that need them have alternate sources of fresh drinking water, and if residents have any more data to share.

She also provides a link to the EPA document, highlights excerpted below:

Dimock Residential Well Survey
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to gather information about private drinking water wells in the Carter Road/ Meshoppen Creek Road area of Dimock. Starting December 29, 2011, EPA staff will be in the neighborhood to survey residents to begin filling information gaps about their drinking water and to ask residents to complete a well survey.

EPA will use the information to determine what, if any, next steps are needed. Next steps being considered could include taking some samples from private drinking water wells.

Why Is EPA Doing This Now?
Earlier data reviewed by EPA in November 2011 indicated that private well water posed no immediate health risks. However, EPA has recently received additional Cabot data from residents that merit further investigation. Based on this new information, EPA is concerned about:

  • Potential gaps in sampling and sample results;
  • The number of drinking wells potentially impacted;
  • If residents have access to treatment systems or alternate sources of drinking water, if needed, and
  • If residents have additional data that they can provide to EPA regarding the quality of their drinking water.

The agency is also surveying residents about the depth, age and history of their private drinking water wells.

Legere goes on to report: The information will be used by the EPA to decide what steps, if any, the agency will take next in its investigation, including possibly taking its own samples from the residents’ drinking water wells, according to the fact sheet.

She also quotes Victoria Switzer, a Dimock resident whose water was affected. Switzer was recently visited by EPA officials:

“Something in the water disturbed them,” she said. “They were very concerned about what they were seeing.”

[SOURCE:  The Times-Tribune]

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