Quantcast
Popular
Can you imagine drinking this well water? Homeowner lives in the Woodland's community north of Pittsburgh. Claims fracking ruined water. DEP claims fracking did not. Photo credit: John Stolz / Public Herald

9,442 Citizen-Reported Fracking Complaints Reveal 12-Years of Suppressed Data

Guess what was found in Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) filing cabinets after gas operators drilled 10,027 fracking wells over the last 12 years? Only 9,442 citizen-reported fracking complaints. And 44 percent of those are drinking water-related. Pennsylvania's DEP finally released the complaints to Public Herald, an investigative journalism nonprofit. There's much to learn from Pennsylvania's now-public 9,442 fracking complaints as legislators decide to frack or not to frack in Western Maryland.

As fracking took off in 2008, so did the number of citizens lodging water, air and land fracking complaints with the DEP.

A year ago, we reported that Pennsylvania's drinking water contamination due to fracking appeared to be much higher than previously reported. To date, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reports only 284 positive water contaminations for the 10,027 fracking wells drilled. That three percent figure seems pretty low.

What hasn't set right with many is that Pennsylvania's official water contamination rate is starkly different than what citizens report on-the-ground. Thousands of news stories, YouTube videos and social media posts report an entirely different story of serious fracking water issues, rampant air pollution, land destruction and negative health issues.

In rural communities, many homes rely on private water wells, not municipally-supplied water. The new natural gas drilling process called fracking drills through surface water aquifers to access natural gas found miles underground in shale rock basins.

The Now-Public 9,442 Pennsylvania Fracking Complaints Reveal:

1. The volume of citizen complaints is alarming, shocking even. For every fracking well drilled, one homeowner, business or gas operator called in an issue.

2. Water well complaints make up 44 percent of DEP complaints. The DEP is the"911 dispatch" center for citizen oil and gas issues. Ninety-six percent of these water complaints were dismissed. The current number of water complaints is higher as the DEP put methane migration and other water issues under different complaint categories; those cases are additional to the 4,108 reported so far.

3. Water contamination is indeed widespread and systemic: Total complaints and water complaints are scattered throughout Pennsylvania's fracking fields and aren't concentrated in one area.

A tally of the fracking wells drilled, total and water-related fracking complaints by EPA region in Pennsylvania. Public Herald and DEP

4. Complaint ratios worsen over time: As fracking grew in Pennsylvania, gas operators should have reduced the negative impacts to land, air and water over time. This data suggests that as fracking continues, complaint ratios increase.

Because this citizen-complaint data was never studied year-over-year, the opportunities to develop best practices, share learning, conduct scientific studies and possibly reduce future harm were eliminated. Sadly, Pennsylvania DEP and Gov. Wolf were touting that fracking is safer by reporting lower violations. DEP failed to ever report the real volume of citizen complaints.

As older conventional drilling was replaced by fracking in 2010, complaints-to-wells drilled grew at an increasing rate. Fracking is different and worse than conventional drilling. Source: Public Herald / Pennsylvania DEP

Why Was This Complaint Data Never Made Public?

Public Herald is reporting a series of articles analyzing the DEP's 12-year suppression of citizen fracking complaint data.

This newly-discovered complaint data calls into question the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fracking water study. After the EPA's original "fracking is safe" preliminary conclusion, the final report said there could be water issues in certain situations.

Did the EPA ever see these 9,442 citizen complaints? Adding to this mess, several thousand complaint records are missing. Over three years, Public Herald scanned 6,981 paper complaints before the DEP emailed the nonprofit 9,442 complaints. What happened to the almost 3,000 complaint records?

This data would have been invaluable to scientist, health professionals, citizens and communities to know, study, plan and adapt. How many people got sick even though authorities knew water wells were getting contaminated? Dr. Stolz explains, "Suppressed information from Pennsylvania regulators makes it very difficult to know the truth about these incidents," he said.

What Happened to the 3,824 Citizens Who Called In and Their Water Complaint Was Dismissed?

The DEP determined that 96 percent of the fracking water complaints were not caused by nearby gas operations. Were they bogus calls?

"You're telling me that there are thousands of people in Pennsylvania that want to fool the DEP? I can't accept that," said Dr. John F. Stolz to Public Herald. Dr. Stolz is a Professor of Biology at Duquesne University and through his Center for Environmental Research and Education has been providing free water tests for citizens who claim water damage.

Friends of the Harmed's Dana Dolney delivers weekly water to a Pennsylvania homeowner whose well was claimed to be ruined by fracking. There's no financial restitution or government support available for fracking damage. Homeowners either work with the offending gas company, sue or rely on charity.

What Will the Future Look Like?

If there is a minimum level of inherent damage involved with fracking, as the data suggests, what will fracking look like with 20,000 fracking wells in a region? What will happen to Western Maryland's tourism and rural landscape?

My answer. Actual West Virginia commode after nearby fracking trashed private well water. Plaintiff lost their lawsuit even though plaintiff had a taped phone call confession that frackers had ruined water.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Baltimore Fishbowl.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. NASA

Not Enough Ice to Drill the Arctic! Offshore Oil Drilling a 'Disaster Waiting to Happen'

Last month, the Trump administration approved the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters, which environmentalists fear will ramp up carbon pollution that fuels climate change.

But here's the ultimate irony: Hilcorp Alaska's project—which involves building a 9-acre artificial drilling island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea—has been delayed because of the effects of climate change, Alaska Public Media reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights
Dominion Energy's headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. VCU CNS

Cash Buys Elections—and Continued Fossil Fuel Dominance

By Wenonah Hauter

Last week, the fossil fuel industry successfully squashed several local measures it didn't like—thanks to the more than $100 million it shelled out to oppose them.

Keep reading... Show less
Fracking
Rick Rappaport

World’s Largest Fracked-Gas-to-Methanol Refinery Must Be Stopped: Submit a Comment Today!

Tuesday, a report written by the company proposing the world's largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refinery was released by the Port of Kalama and Cowlitz County, Washington. The proposed fossil fuel refinery is controversial because of the impacts on both local residents' health and our climate. Despite the company's claim that the refinery could result in a climate benefit, the refinery would consume a stunning amount of fracked natural gas—one-third as much gas as the entire state of Washington.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Business
Drinkworks

How Green Is the New Keurig Cocktail Machine?

This week, Keurig and Anheuser-Busch made headlines with the launch of the Drinkworks Home Bar, a pod-based appliance that makes cocktails, brews and ciders at the push of a button.

Look, I get it. An instant, no-fuss Old Fashioned—which normally requires muddling sugar, water and bitters and mixing in many other ingredients—sounds great!

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Climate Reality Project

First Look: 24 Hours of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves

In many places, the leaves have fallen and the first frosts have turned the air crisp. The days are getting shorter. Most birds are well on their way south, and the holidays are just around the corner. And in just a few weeks, on Dec. 3-4, we'll present our eighth annual global broadcast of 24 Hours of Reality.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Student leaders behind the movement calling on the UN to highlight key data on imminent global collapse. Our Future Uncompromised

20,000+ Students to UN: Publicize Key Facts to Prevent Global Collapse

24,500 students representing every country in the EU have added their names to the list of young people fighting for a future for themselves and the earth.

The students, who organize under the banner of Our Future Uncompromised and attend the prestigious Schola Europaea network of international schools, are calling on the United Nations (UN) to "stop withholding" crucial scientific information that they say could help avert the duel catastrophes of resources depletion and climate change, the students announced Thursday in an email sent to EcoWatch.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Trump at Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, West Virginia on Aug. 3, 2017. SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

Trump Team Plans 'Sideshow on Coal' at UN Climate Talks

No one really expects the coal-friendly Trump administration to take significant action on climate change, but this is just trolling.

A new exclusive from Reuters claims that the president's team will "set up a side-event promoting fossil fuels" at the global climate summit this December, aka COP 24, in Katowice, Poland.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!