Quantcast

Groups Continue to Push for Transparency in Testing for Water Contamination from Fracking

Energy

Earthworks

Questions and concerns continue to surround Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) water testing and reporting policies related to suspected impacts from Marcellus Shale natural gas operations. These issues were originally revealed in the Kiskadden vs. PADEP deposition of Taru Upadhyay, technical director of DEP’s Bureau of Laboratories—and described widely in subsequent news stories regarding the use of suite codes, which result in only partial test results being sent to homeowners.

“Where gas development goes, problems follow. Yet the DEP seems more interested in protecting its own information than protecting the environment," says Nadia Steinzor, eastern program coordinator, Earthworks' Oil & Gas Accountability Project. "DEP should stop playing hide and seek and start giving the public better water and air tests, complete results and honest answers."

"We've worked with and supplied clean water to desperate and impacted people begging DEP for more and better information about their water. By not giving these people full information, PA DEP is violating communities' right to know, behaving with shocking arrogance, and endangering public health," said Iris Marie Bloom, director of Protecting Our Waters

In November, 25 organizations sent a letter to Governor Tom Corbett and Secretary Michael Krancer criticizing the PA DEP’s water testing and notification policies as outdated, lacking transparency and inadequate to protect residents and drinking water from pollution caused by gas drilling. The groups called for immediate action to be taken to reform PA DEP’s procedures and to disclose all data collected through DEP water tests but only partially reported to households where the testing occurred.

Following Secretary Krancer’s reply to the letter, a meeting to discuss these issues was scheduled for Jan. 24 between representatives of the signatory organizations and the PA DEP’s Oil and Gas Division and Bureau of Laboratories. However, DEP abruptly cancelled the meeting.

"Our organizations were optimistic about the opportunity to finally get answers that we and the public are seeking regarding this important public health issue,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus shale policy associate of Clean Water Action. “We are extremely disappointed with the cancellation, particularly because the meeting was arranged at their suggestion.”

“Residents who are in the dark about their well water quality need answers and as advocates, we are determined to find out what’s really going on. DEP’s offer to meet seemed to represent a willingness to begin to address these issues, now that is called into question,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director, Delaware Riverkeeper Network.

“It has been two and a half months since we sent our letter to the governor and it appears that we are no closer to getting answers to our questions,” said Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth. “Pennsylvania has over 1,000,000 private water wells, more than any state except Michigan. How long do the millions of Pennsylvanians in the drilling region who rely on those wells have to wait for transparency from Secretary Krancer’s DEP?”

In light of PA DEP’s actions, the signatories scheduled to participate in the meeting sent a letter to Secretary Krancer, expressing dissatisfaction with PA DEP’s decision and outlining a list of pressing questions to which the public needs answers. Some the questions we hoped to have addressed during our meeting with PA DEP include:

  • Why are landowners not routinely provided with the quality control/quality assurance measures used by DEP laboratories to process samples and a full report of the raw data and findings from DEP samples? 
  • When are the various Suite Codes applied (i.e., 942, 944, and 946, as well as any others related to oil and gas development)? Does DEP have an established protocol for which code to apply? How many were there where only partial results were shared with the homeowner?
  • What is the DEP protocol for re-sampling and/or using third-party test data (such as gas operator sampling results) in investigations prompted by a request for determination of contamination of a private water supply by oil and gas activities?
  • To what degree does DEP use emerging knowledge about contaminants associated with oil and gas operations to determine its testing parameters? For example, DEP’s list of “Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing Process in Pennsylvania Prepared by the Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Oil and Gas Management” includes dozens of contaminants.
  • What criteria in the test results would lead DEP to determine that water contamination was caused by natural gas drilling? Why would DEP state in letters to homeowners that “The sample results of samples taken by the Department did not show any evidence that your water was affected by oil and gas drilling activities,” even if results indicate elevated levels of such substances such as chloride, barium, strontium, methane, ethane, and propane?

“There is a rig 1,000 ft from my house that is readying to drill four horizontal wells. I used a TDS meter this morning to get a baseline normal reading because I am anxious about my drinking water,” said Rebecca Roter, coordinator of Cross County Citizens Clean Air Coalition. “I ask that Secretary Krancer exercise humanity by providing transparency in water testing protocol and reporting of data in cases of suspected drinking water contamination from shale extraction activities. I ask that he continue dialogue with us in good faith about PA DEP's water testing and reporting procedures for drinking water in PA's gasfields."

"Drinking water to support life is vital, not optional, and the sanctity thereof is being violated liberally,” said Julie Ann Edgar, organizer of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth. “All concerned organizations fully expect to see a significant increase in transparency and responsive cooperation on the part of PA DEP. PA DEP and Secretary Krancer's job includes stewardship of the commons in perpetuity, not "getting gas done" by withholding vital information from the public.”
“We believe access to clean drinking water should be a right, not a privilege, and we need answers from the DEP about why their water testing and reporting appears to be missing critical data for homeowners,” said Erika Staaf, clean water advocate with PennEnvironment. “We hope the DEP will change its mind meet with our organizations so we can find answers to these important questions for our members and residents across Pennsylvania.”

“Our organizations have a long history of interacting with PA DEP and PA DEP Secretaries from both Republican and Democratic administrations and we remain ready to meet immediately on this pressing issue,” said Melissa Troutman, Outreach Coordinator, Mountain Watershed Association.  DEP representatives originally expressed their intention to the group to reschedule the meeting but after 10 days no new dates have been offered.  The representatives of the signatories of the letter are open and eager to meet. The organizations also intend to follow up with members of the General Assembly and the Auditor General who have been investigating the problems with DEP water testing policies.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

——–

Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sled dog teams pull researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute through meltwater on the Greenland ice sheet in early June, 2019. Danish Meteorological Institute / Steffen M. Olsen

By Jon Queally

In yet the latest shocking image depicting just how fast the world's natural systems are changing due to the global climate emergency, a photograph showing a vast expanse of melted Arctic ice in Greenland — one in which a pair of sled dog teams appear to be walking on water — has gone viral.

Read More Show Less
CAFOs often store animal waste in massive, open-air lagoons, like this one at Vanguard Farms in Chocowinity, North Carolina. Bacteria feeding on the animal waste turns the mixture a bright pink. picstever / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tia Schwab

It has been almost a year since Hurricane Florence slammed the Carolinas, dumping a record 30 inches of rainfall in some parts of the states. At least 52 people died, and property and economic losses reached $24 billion, with nearly $17 billion in North Carolina alone. Flood waters also killed an estimated 3.5 million chickens and 5,500 hogs.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Members of the NY Renews coalition gathered before New York lawmakers reached a deal on the Climate and Communities Protection Act. NYRenews / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Grassroots climate campaigners in New York applauded on Monday after state lawmakers reached a deal on sweeping climate legislation, paving the way for the passage of what could be some of the country's most ambitious environmental reforms.

Read More Show Less
In this picture taken on June 4, an Indian boatman walks amid boats on the dried bed of a lake at Nalsarovar Bird Sanctuary, on the eve of World Environment Day. Sam Panthaky / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

Nearly 50 people died on Saturday in one Indian state as record-breaking heatwaves across the country have caused an increasingly desperate situation.

Read More Show Less
A man carries a poster in New York City during the second annual nationwide March For Science on April 14, 2018. Kena Betancur / Getty Images

By Will J. Grant

In an ideal world, people would look at issues with a clear focus only on the facts. But in the real world, we know that doesn't happen often.

People often look at issues through the prism of their own particular political identity — and have probably always done so.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

YinYang / E+ / Getty Images

In a blow to the Trump administration, the Supreme Court ruled Monday to uphold a Virginia ban on mining uranium, Reuters reported.

Read More Show Less
Ragú Old World Style Traditional is one of three flavors named in a voluntary recall. Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0

Spaghetti with plastic sauce? That's what you might be eating if you pour one of three flavors of Ragú sauce over your pasta.

Mizkan America, the food company that owns Ragú, announced Saturday that it was voluntarily recalling some Chunky Tomato Garlic & Onion, Old World Style Traditional and Old World Style Meat sauces because they might be contaminated with plastic fragments, The Today Show reported.

Read More Show Less
A butterfly in the National Butterfly Center, a private sanctuary for butterflies in southern Texas, on Jan. 22. Maren Hennemuth / picture alliance / Getty Images

While Trump's border wall has yet to be completed, the threat it poses to pollinators is already felt, according to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, as reported by Transmission & Distribution World.

Read More Show Less