Twenty-five organizations are asking PA Governor Tom Corbett to take immediate action to reform the PA Department of Environmental Protection’s well water testing and notification policies. According to a letter sent today, the DEP’s policies are outdated, lack transparency, and do not adequately protect residents and drinking water from pollution caused by gas drilling
(1) That DEP report all data from households where well water was sampled due to suspected pollution from gas and oil operations. A court deposition of the technical director of DEP's Bureau of Laboratories indicated that DEP routinely omits data on 16 of 24 heavy metals for which it conducts water analyses from the final reports provided to well owners. Some of the omitted metals have serious health impacts and have been found in drilling flowback and produced water. DEP should revise its testing protocol to include all potential contaminants so the agency can accurately evaluate drinking water impacts and affected residents can make informed decisions about their water supplies.
(2) That DEP revoke the new policy requiring administrators in Harrisburg to approve any positive notices of water contamination before public notification is made. In response to previously made requests in this regard, Secretary Krancer claimed DEP was fully transparent. In light of the revelations of Kiskadden vs. PADEP, the groups reasoned that the data used by DEP and provided to the public is neither complete nor accurate, and should not be the basis of determining whether pollution has occurred. Notification of contaminated water should be made without delay and bureaucratic red tape eliminated due to the potential harmful health impacts on residents waiting for testing results.
(3) That the missing results from all well water tests ordered by the DEP should be provided immediately to well owners. This includes all tests using special reporting codes that omit from reports data that is necessary for accurate determinations by DEP of whether pollution occurred and whether residents’ health and water supplies are being harmed. Determinations by DEP based on partial data must be questioned.
“One the biggest fears for people living near drilling is the possibility of having your drinking water supply impacted,” says Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale Policy Associate with Clean Water Action. People trust the DEP to safeguard the public, but DEP’s policies and actions have eroded that trust.
Residents living in gas drilling areas turn to DEP to help them find answers, says Nadia Steinzor, with Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project – “not limit the very information on which those answers depend.”
Many people feel that the regulatory agency has held back critical information from those who need it. “Pennsylvania residents in fracked communities have complained for years that DEP has protected the industry instead of protecting their water, air, land and health,” says Iris Marie Bloom, director of Protecting Our Waters. “Withholding information from impacted homeowners endangers public health and is inexcusable.”