from allgov.com: Officially, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) said last year that the drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania,
was not contaminated by natural gas extraction involving hydraulic
fracturing (fracking). However, an internal EPA document obtained by the
media contradicts this assertion, raising questions over why officials
declared the water was safe to drink.
Residents of Dimock (pictured) had complained for years that nearby gas drilling
had polluted their wells. These complaints prompted the EPA’s
mid-Atlantic field office to test the water for 64 homes.
Agency leaders in Washington later announced that nearly all of the samples came out clean.
But an EPA PowerPoint presentation obtained by the Tribune/Los Angeles
Times Washington Bureau reveals that EPA on-site staff members informed
its Washington headquarters that several wells had been contaminated
with methane, manganese and arsenic, and that gas drilling was the
The determination was based on studies conducted over
the course of a four- to five-year period at the site.
The document concluded that “methane and other gases released during
drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant
damage to the water quality.” The presentation also stated that “methane
is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas
drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and
other gas well work.”
The decision by EPA officials in Washington to ignore the agency’s own
findings and shut down the investigation mirrored other recent episodes.
In March 2012, the EPA gave up on an investigation of methane in
drinking water in Parker County, Texas, despite the fact that a
geologist hired by the regulator confirmed that the methane was from gas
In late June, the EPA cancelled a study of possible contamination of
drinking water in Pavillion, Wyoming, even though it had found
carcinogens, hydrocarbons and other contaminants in the water.
“We don’t know what’s going on, but certainly the fact that there’s
been such a distinct withdrawal from three high-profile cases raises
questions about whether the EPA is caving to pressure from industry or
antagonistic members of Congress,” Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Los Angeles Times.
The EPA’s response to the revelation in the Dimock case was to say that
the on-site report was merely a “preliminary evaluation that
represent[s] one [employee’s] thoughts regarding 12 samples.”
“What’s surprising is to see this data set and then to see EPA walk
away from Dimock,” Robert B. Jackson, professor of environmental
sciences at Duke University, who researched methane contamination at
Dimock, told the Times. “The issue here is, why wasn’t EPA
interested in following up on this to understand it better? The question
we’re asking is, ‘Was there enough evidence to warrant further study?’
The EPA scientist clearly thought so.”