Third Set of EPA Water Tests in Dimock, PA Come Back Clean

The latest (and third) round of water testing done by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of water wells around Dimock, PA shows (surprise!) no chemical contamination from hydraulic fracturing. All of the 16 water wells show no fracking fluids. One of the wells shows a high level of arsenic, a chemical not used by Cabot Oil & Gas during hydraulic fracturing. Arsenic is a naturally occurring chemical.

Here’s the statement by the EPA upon releasing the latest round of testing last Friday:

EPA has completed and shared with residents and Pennsylvania state officials the third set of sampling at 16 private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania. This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action. At one well, EPA found elevated levels of arsenic and offered alternate water but the resident declined. EPA remains committed to providing Dimock residents with the best available data and information on the quality of drinking water as expeditiously as possible.(1)

And here’s the statement by Cabot Oil & Gas after this latest round of tests were released:

Today, the US Environmental Protection Agency released the third set of water samples compiled at private drinking water wells in Dimock, PA. The data released today confirms the two earlier EPA findings that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment. Again, these findings are consistent with literally thousands of pages of water quality data accumulated by state and local authorities and by Cabot Oil and Gas. As with the other findings, EPA did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area. Cabot continues to look forward to working closely with federal, state and local officials in using the best and most accurate science to address public concerns.(1)

Of course the EPA’s findings don’t sit well with anti-drilling groups. The EPA is godlike for those who oppose drilling, and when the EPA’s work confirms what we knew all along—that hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate well water—the anti-drillers literally “turn on their own.” Their response to the EPA? Deny the science and deny the truth:

Water Defense, an environmental group, said Friday that the EPA’s statements about its Dimock water tests are "spin, not science."

"EPA’s own tests have already vindicated the long-standing allegations of water contamination," Water Defense Executive Director Claire Sandberg said. "The affected families want the truth, not more smoke and mirrors: why is Region 3 implying that water full of toxic chemicals and methane poses no health threat?"(2)

You just have to shake your head. The “EPA’s own tests” have shown the opposite: there is NO chemical contamination. And the EPA is not out to prove what the PA state DEP has already said, that 19 wells had high levels of methane, which does not pose a health risk, but does pose an explosion risk, which is why the DEP ordered Cabot to install methane filtration systems on those wells. Eleven of the 19 families decided to refuse the filtration systems and a payment of twice the value of their homes and instead sue Cabot hoping for a big payday. Oops. Guess that isn’t working out too well now.

(1) Energy in Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative (Apr 20, 2012) – More EPA Water Tests Show Water to be Safe

(2) Wilkes-Barre The Citizens’ Voice (Apr 21, 2012) – EPA releases third set of Dimock water tests