Penn State Defends Controversial Water Contamination Study

Two weeks ago MDN covered the news that researchers from Penn State had published a study that reportedly showed a Marcellus Shale wastewater impoundment had leaked and some of the wastewater had found its way to a crack underground and traveled up to a mile and a half away to contaminate 3 water wells. This happened in 2010–five years ago (see Penn State Finds Chemical Migration in 3 PA Water Wells from 2010). It seemed at first blush that this was important research not because it proves “fracking contaminates water wells, told you so told you so” as anti-drillers claim–but because of the research tools innovated by the team to detect small amounts of chemicals that may in fact come from shale drilling. However, a few days later the news broke that one of the so-called researchers on the team had actually been a consultant and worked for the three families with the contaminated water wells, helping them in their lawsuit against the driller. When that little overlooked and omitted fact became known, embarrased mainstream news organizations did something we rarely see–they printed retractions/corrections noting the huge conflict of interest (see Reversal: Media Discredits Penn State Water Contamination Study). It gave Penn State a major black eye and damaged their credibility. So Penn State fired off their own mea culpa to defend the research study and the “facts” of how this kerfuffle came to be…

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