Quantcast

Pennsylvania DEP Ignores Stringent Testing for Water Contamination from Fracking

Energy

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Daniel Raichel

Water taken from a Dimock, PA well on March 16, 2012.

Last week, a news report by the Timesonline revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Environment (DEP) has been avoiding using its most stringent water testing method for determining if local drinking water has been polluted by fracking. The report serves as yet one more chapter in the continuing saga regarding DEP’s water testing practices that turn a blind eye to fracking contaminants.

The whole issue revolves around how the Pennsylvania DEP tests and reports results for water supplies reportedly contaminated by fracking. Over the years, DEP has developed a number of specific tests—each with its own numbered code—designed to measure contaminants of concern related to fracking. If the Pennsylvania DEP field agents send a water sample to the lab labeled with the code “942,” for example, that tells the lab to measure for 24 types of water contaminants1—including heavy metals.

Late last year, however, it came to light that—at least in some cases—lab reports to field agents and homeowners contained results for only 8 of the 24 tested-for contaminants. In other words, in making its determination whether local well water was or was not contaminated by fracking, the Pennsylvania DEP ignored portions of its own drinking water lab results that could have shown toxic contaminants linked with fracking. As Natural Resources Defense Council’s President, Frances Beinecke, blogged, this would be like “having a doctor say you are healthy because a test for diabetes came back clean, but refusing to tell you the tests for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke risk didn’t look so good.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, this latest news report reveals that the Pennsylvania DEP has an additional code, “944,” specifically for contamination associated with Marcellus drilling, which it told no one about and has avoided using. The code was developed in 2008 and requires the Pennsylvania DEP labs to look at 45 harmful contaminants—nearly twice as many as any other test.2 Despite the obvious usefulness of such a test, the Pennsylvania DEP hasn’t used it at all in the last two years, nor has it offered any explanation as to why harmful contaminants it worried about previously would no longer be of concern.

All of this goes to show that when it comes to water near frack wells, the Pennsylvania DEP is doing everything it can to put on the blinders. It’s no wonder that the new Pennsylvania Auditor Eugene DePasquale has decided to investigate DEP’s practices related to fracking. We hope Auditor DePasquale will conduct a full and fair audit as expeditiously as possible, and that in the meantime, any withheld water quality information be immediately released. Regardless of whether or not DEP thinks certain contaminants are linked to fracking, no Pennsylvania resident should be denied readily available information regarding the safety of the water that they and their families drink.

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:

——–

1This information is based on the deposition of Taru Upadhyay, the technical director of DEP's Bureau of Laboratories.  Because of DEP's lack of transparency on this issue, however, it is not entirely clear how many contaminants are normally tested for.

2The additional contaminants tested for with the 944 code are ammonia, Kjeldahl nitrogen, nitrate and nitrite, phosphorus, carbon, cyanide (distilled and weak acid dissociable), sulfide, beryllium, boron, fluoride, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, thallium, molybdenum, silver, antimony, tin, titanium, phenols and mercury.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

It's become a familiar story with the Trump administration: Scientists write a report that shows the administration's policies will cause environmental damage, then the administration buries the report and fires the scientists.

Read More Show Less
Valerie / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A coalition of some of the largest environmental groups in the country joined forces to file a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Trump administration's maneuver to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
beyond foto / Getty Images

By Kimberly Holland

Children who eat a lot of gluten in their earliest years may have an increased risk of developing celiac disease and gluten intolerance, according to a new study published in JAMATrusted Source.

Read More Show Less
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

Calling the global climate crisis both the greatest threat facing the U.S. and the greatest opportunity for transformative change, Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled today a comprehensive Green New Deal proposal that would transition the U.S. economy to 100 percent renewable energy and create 20 million well-paying union jobs over a decade.

Read More Show Less
orientalizing / Flickr

The Parties to CITES agreed to list giraffes on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) today at the World Wildlife Conference or CoP18 in Geneva. Such protections will ensure that all giraffe parts trade were legally acquired and not sourced from the poached giraffes trade and will require countries to make non-detriment findings before allowing giraffe exports. The listing will also enable the collection of international trade data for giraffes that might justify greater protections at both CITES and other venues in the future.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

The WHO stressed that more research is needed on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion. luchschen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The UN's health agency on Thursday said that microplastics contained in drinking water posed a "low" risk at their current levels.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) — in its first report on the potential health risks of microplastic ingestion — also stressed more research was needed to reassure consumers.

Read More Show Less

Brazil's right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is giving President Trump a run for his money in the alternative facts department.

Read More Show Less
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee delivered his 2019 State of the State address on Jan. 15. Governor Jay and First Lady Trudi Inslee / Flickr

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made solving the climate crisis the center of his presidential campaign, is dropping out of the 2020 Democratic primary race.

Read More Show Less