News Release: EPA participates in Blue Mountain tree planting project at Palmerton Zinc Superfund site

PHILADELPHIA (May 22, 2013) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and three partner organizations are planting 5,500 new trees on 70 acres of mountainside at the Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site along the Appalachian Trail in Palmerton, Pa. that will be in place by Memorial Day.

“EPA is proud to be part of this tree planting venture that helps transform a previously barren and contaminated site into a beautiful ecological vista along the Appalachian Trail,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

This is the second year of tree planting, which is the final step in re-vegetating Blue Mountain – – a joint effort involving EPA, the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the American Chestnut Foundation. The area had suffered extensive environmental damage that was caused by years of emissions from zinc smelting operations in the Borough of Palmerton.

Last spring about 8,350 trees were planted. Before the tree planting, EPA and the National Park Service oversaw grass planting and other re-vegetation on a 500-acre section of the site that had to be done from aircraft due to the steep slope and remote location.

National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach noted, “This is an excellent example of how collaborative public and private partnerships can have a meaningful and positive impact for the environment.”

Initially the trees will be protected by deer-proof fencing. The trees include a special mostly American, potentially blight-resistant generation of American chestnut which can help re-establish these trees in the eastern United States. Once prevalent in forests throughout the eastern United States, American Chestnuts were nearly wiped out by a blight causing fungus that was introduced around 1900.

“We are impressed by the interagency cooperation on this project and excited about the prospect of American Chestnuts once again flourishing on the Appalachian Trail,” said American Chestnut Foundation’s Sara Fitzsimmons.

In addition to the chestnut trees, various oaks, Black Gum, Sumacs, Chokeberry and Sweet Ferns will be included. Planting the seeds, seedlings, bare roots and rhizome cuttings will require drilling holes with an auger. The holes will be filled with top soil and a nursery mix.

The tree planting is being paid for by CBS Inc., formerly Viacom International, and the party potentially responsible for the contamination. More information on the Palmerton site see EPA’s website: http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/super/sites/PAD002395887/index.htm .

Contact: Bonnie Smith smith.bonnie@epa.gov, 215-814-5543

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We realize your time is precious and the world is hectic. CCGG’s volunteers do only what they’re comfortable with. It can be a little or a lot.

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Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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Environmental Protection Agency Dramatically Lowered Methane Loss During Drilling

“PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has dramatically lowered its estimate of how much of a potent heat-trapping gas leaks during natural gas production, in a shift with major implications for a debate that has divided environmentalists: Does the recent boom in fracking help or hurt the fight against climate change?

Oil and gas drilling companies had pushed for the change, but there have been differing scientific estimates of the amount of methane that leaks from wells, pipelines and other facilities during production and delivery. Methane is the main component of natural gas.

The new EPA data is “kind of an earthquake” in the debate over drilling, said Michael Shellenberger, the president of the Breakthrough Institute, an environmental group based in Oakland, Calif. “This is great news for anybody concerned about the climate and strong proof that existing technologies can be deployed to reduce methane leaks.”

For the whole story

For Methane Issues in Pennsylvania
For Fact Based Review of Dimock

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EPA recommends radon testing in January

Protect your family from the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.

PHILADELPHIA (January 8, 2013) – January is national Radon Action Month and the
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages everyone to test their homes for radon. January is an especially good time to test homes and schools because windows and doors are closed tightly and people spend more time indoors.

Unsafe levels of radon can lead to serious illness. The Surgeon General has warned that
radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States with an estimated 21,000 deaths a year. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. By making simple fixes in a home or building people can lower their health risks from radon.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas; so testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home or school. Test kits are available in home improvement centers and hardware stores and costs approximately $20. The kits are simple to use with easy testing and mailing instructions.

Make the commitment to protect your family. Test for radon in air / water . Fix the problem if you find elevated radon levels. Save a life!

For more information about radon and radon testing see: http://www.epa.gov/radon/

Radon and other air/water testing kits

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Carbon County Groundwater Guardians is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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Cabot’s Methodology Links Tainted Water Wells to Gas Fracking

www.businessweek.com/news/2012-10-02/cabot-s-methodology-links-tainted-water-wells-to-gas-fracking
By Mark Drajem and Jim Efstathiou Jr. on October 02, 2012

Methane in two Pennsylvania water wells has a chemical fingerprint that links it to natural gas produced by hydraulic fracturing, evidence that such drilling can pollute drinking water.

The data, collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, are significant because the composition of the gas –its isotopic signature — falls into a range Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG) had identified as that of the Marcellus Shale, which it tapped through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“The EPA data falls squarely in the Marcellus space” established by Cabot’s scientists, said Rob Jackson, an environmental scientist at Duke University. That evidence backs up his findings linking gas drilling and water problems in the town of Dimock, applying the very methodology that Cabot established to try to debunk it, he said. Read more

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EPA says Dimock water safe, but Cabot still can’t drill there

U.S. EPA yesterday ended the latest chapter in the turbulent drilling dispute in Dimock, Pa., finding that contaminant levels in its water show no health threat and no connection to hydraulic fracturing  chemicals.

Because of that, the agency said, it will stop delivering water to four households in the small northeastern Pennsylvania community that was featured in the anti-drilling documentary “Gasland.”

“The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action,” said Philadelphia-based EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin.

The action, however, does not change state officials’ case against Cabot Oil and Gas for contaminating water wells in the community with methane. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection still has not cleared Cabot to drill in areas of Dimock Township where it ordered wells shut down in 2009. That case focused on poor well construction, not problems with fracturing.

A Cabot spokesman said the company is “working closely with the state to restart our operations.”

EPA had looked for hazardous substances such as arsenic, barium or manganese (E&ENews PM, May 11). At five homes, EPA sampling found those substances, which are naturally occurring, at levels that “could present a health concern.” But all five of the homes have sufficient treatment systems, or will have them, to make the water quality acceptable coming out of the tap.

“The data released today once again confirms the EPA’s and DEP’s findings that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment,” a statement issued by the company said.

The statement said the company will “continue to cooperate with federal, state and local officials” and stressed the economic growth that drilling has brought to the area.

Industry praised EPA’s findings as “fact-based” and cast them as vindication of the safety of drilling.

“We are very pleased that EPA has arrived upon these fact-based findings and that we’re now able to close this chapter once and for all,” said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.

What’s not closed is the action by Pennsylvania DEP, which shut down Cabot’s drilling in portions of Dimock Township in 2009. State officials said shoddy well construction on Cabot wells allowed methane gas to leak (or “migrate”) into the water wells of Dimock residents.

EPA testing has left many with the impression that the federal agency has exonerated and debunked all the allegations against Cabot in Dimock, said John Hanger, who headed Pennsylvania DEP during its Dimock investigation.

He says a drive by some environmental groups to shut down the industry in Pennsylvania has backfired. He said they pushed too far by trying to prove that hydraulic fracturing chemicals, not just methane, had contaminated the Dimock water.

“This is the problem with hyperbole, exaggeration and wild claims,” Hanger said. “There are real impacts from gas drilling, and we should focus on those, such as methane migration and methane leaks.”

DEP testing found “thermogenic” — as opposed to naturally occurring — gas at 18 properties. DEP fined the company and eventually negotiated a $4.1 million settlement in which all the affected homeowners got at least two times the value of their home and kept any mineral rights.

EPA tested for methane in its first round of sampling. Five wells had methane above the federal Office of Surface Mining’s screening level of 28 parts per million. Two of the homes were receiving alternate sources of drinking water from Cabot. EPA officials said all of the people affected were already aware that their water contained levels of methane.

“EPA’s investigation does not include an evaluation of the risk posed by elevated levels of methane — which continue to exist in some homes in Dimock — and which, at extreme levels and if unaddressed, can lead to explosions,” said Natural Resources Defense Council senior attorney Kate Sinding.

www.eenews.net/public/energywire/2012/07/26/1
Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
EnergyWire: Thursday, July 26, 2012

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EPA Completes Drinking Water Sampling in Dimock, Pa.

EPA News Release
Contact: Terri White white.terri-a@epa.gov 215-814-5523

PHILADELPHIA (July 25, 2012) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has completed its sampling of private drinking water wells in Dimock, Pa. Data previously supplied to the agency by residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot Oil and Gas Exploration had indicated the potential for elevated levels of water contaminants in wells, and following requests by residents EPA took steps to sample water in the area to ensure there were not elevated levels of contaminants. Based on the outcome of that sampling, EPA has determined that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the Agency.

“Our goal was to provide the Dimock community with complete and reliable information about the presence of contaminants in their drinking water and to determine whether further action was warranted to protect public health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.  “The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action.  Throughout EPA’s work in Dimock, the Agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”

EPA visited Dimock, Pa. in late 2011, surveyed residents regarding their private wells and reviewed hundreds of pages of drinking water data supplied to the agency by Dimock residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Cabot.  Because data for some homes showed elevated contaminant levels and several residents expressed concern about their drinking water, EPA determined that well sampling was necessary to gather additional data and evaluate whether residents had access to safe drinking water.

Between January and June 2012, EPA sampled private drinking water wells serving 64 homes, including two rounds of sampling at four wells where EPA was delivering temporary water supplies as a precautionary step in response to prior data indicating the well water contained levels of contaminants that pose a health concern.  At one of those wells EPA did find an elevated level of manganese in untreated well water.  The two residences serviced by the well each have water treatment systems that can reduce manganese to levels that do not present a health concern.

As a result of the two rounds of sampling at these four wells, EPA has determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water.  EPA is working with residents on the schedule to disconnect the alternate water sources provided by EPA.

Overall during the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap.  EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.

For more information on the results of sampling, visit: http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/states/pa.html .

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Talisman Energy to pay $62,000 penalty for violations at 52 natural gas facilities in Pa.

EPA News Release
Contact: Roy Seneca seneca.roy@epa.gov  215-814-5567

PHILADELPHIA (July 25, 2012) — Talisman Energy USA Inc. will pay a $62,457 penalty to settle alleged violations of hazardous chemical reporting requirements at 52 hydraulic fracturing facilities throughout Pennsylvania that include natural gas well sites and compressor stations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today. Talisman discovered the violations and self-disclosed them to the EPA.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requires companies that store specified amounts of hazardous chemicals to submit material safety data and lists of chemicals on site with state and local emergency response agencies and the local fire departments. The safety data describes health risks associated with the chemicals and safe handling instructions. The lists of chemicals set forth the types and quantities of chemicals present on site.

Compliance with these requirements is important for the health and safety of facility occupants and first responders in the event of discharge or accidental exposure to hazardous chemicals. The required information also provides valuable information to emergency planners.

The settlement reflects Talisman’s good faith cooperation with EPA, and its compliance efforts in self-disclosing and swiftly correcting the violations. As part of the settlement, the company neither admitted nor denied the alleged violations.

In a consent agreement with EPA, the company has agreed to pay the $62,457 penalty for failing to file required chemical information for one or more of the past three years at each of the facilities included in the settlement.

For more information on EPCRA and EPA’s toxic chemical reporting program, visit http://www.epa.gov/emergencies/content/epcra/index.htm .

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EPA: Water quality OK at 20 wells in Pa. gas town

www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-04/D9TVLHPG0.htm

DIMOCK, Pa.

Testing at 20 more water wells in a northeastern Pennsylvania community at the center of a debate over the safety of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale shows no dangerous levels of contamination, according to a report issued Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA had already tested 11 wells in Dimock, showing the presence of sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria in six of the wells before the results of the latest round of testing.

Three of the newly-tested wells showed methane while one showed barium well above the EPA’s maximum level, but a treatment system installed in the well is removing the substance, an EPA spokesman said.

Featured in the documentary “Gasland,” the Susquehanna County village of Dimock has been at the center of a fierce debate over drilling, in particular the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process involves injecting a mixture of water and chemicals deep underground to free trapped natural gas so it can be brought to the surface.

State environmental regulators previously determined that Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. contaminated the aquifer underneath homes along Carter Road in Dimock with explosive levels of methane gas, although they later determined the company had met its obligation to provide safe drinking water to residents.

The EPA is still providing drinking water to three homes where prior tests showed contamination. A second round of tests is under way, regulators said.

A group of Dimock residents suing Cabot assert their water is also polluted with drilling chemicals, while others say that the water is clean and the plaintiffs are exaggerating problems with their wells to help their lawsuit.

A Cabot spokesman said in a statement Friday that the “data confirms the earlier EPA finding that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment.”

“Importantly, the EPA again did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area, particularly given the fact that any contaminants are more likely indicative of naturally-occurring background levels or other unrelated activities,” the statement said.

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EPA faces suit from 11 groups over coal ash

www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/health/epa-faces-suit-from-11-groups-over-coal-ash-630121/

April 6, 2012 12:00 am
By Don Hopey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Eleven environmental organizations are suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force it to better regulate toxic coal ash and citing recent groundwater contamination at 29 coal ash dump sites in 16 states, including two in Western Pennsylvania.

According to the EPA’s own data, coal ash has caused contamination of groundwater at coal-fired power plants in Homer City, Indiana County, and near New Castle, Lawrence County.

Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the other groups Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said in a release that the EPA hasn’t updated coal ash disposal and control regulations in more than 30 years and that it continues to delay new rules despite recent evidence of “leaking waste ponds, poisoned groundwater supplies and threats to public health.”

Coal ash is produced mainly by coal-fired power plants and contains a mixture of toxic chemicals and compounds, Earthjustice said, including arsenic, lead, hexavalent chromium, manganese, mercury, selenium and  cadmium.

The EPA data, based on a 2010 questionnaire sent to 700 fossil- and nuclear-fueled power plants to asses water discharges, show ash from GenOn’s 60-year-old, 330-megawatt New Castle power plant in West Pittsburg, Lawrence County, has contaminated groundwater with arsenic.

The 1,884-megawatt Homer City power plant operated by Midwest Generation EME LLC and owned by General Electric, uses 19 ponds or landfills to dispose of its ash and, according to the EPA, has contaminated groundwater with iron, lead, manganese and sulfate.

GenOn, which announced in March it will close the New Castle power plant in April 2015, did not return calls requesting comment. Midwest Generation EME, operator of the 43-year-old power plant 50 miles east of Pittsburgh, also did not return calls.

The environmental groups’ lawsuit seeks an order to force the EPA to set deadlines for review and revision of coal ash regulations, as well as changes to tests done to determine if the waste is hazardous under federal law.

“The numbers of coal ash ponds and landfills that are contaminating water supplies continues to grow, yet nearby communities still do not have effective federal protection,” said Lisa Evans, an Earthjustice attorney.

Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project and a former EPA regulator, said the dumping of toxic coal ash is on the rise. In 2010, he said, toxic heavy metals in power plant ash disposal topped 113 million pounds, a nearly 10 percent increase from 2009.

In September 2010, the EPA held public hearings in Pittsburgh and six other cities across the nation on a proposal to federally regulate coal ash for the first time, a proposal that the coal and power industries opposed. Industry leaders at the hearing said federal regulation would be costly, hurt the industry, cost jobs and increase electric rates.

Mr. Schaeffer said EPA’s proposed standards for safe disposal, including a plan to close unsafe ash ponds within five years, “have gone nowhere.”

The nation’s power plants produce approximately 150 million tons of ash a year, about 20 tons of that in Pennsylvania.

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.
First Published 2012-04-06

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First 11 Dimock homes sampled by EPA show no health concerns

citizensvoice.com/news/first-11-dimock-homes-sampled-by-epa-show-no-health-concerns-1.1286406#axzz1pCMrG0Lu

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)
Published: March 16, 2012

The first 11 Dimock Township water supplies tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not reveal levels of contamination that could present a health concern, but the samples indicated the presence of arsenic and other compounds that will require further tests at some homes, the agency said Thursday.

Agency officials hand delivered test results to residents whose wells were sampled during the week of Jan. 23 and will meet again with the families individually to review the results and answer questions.

The first test results reported Thursday represent about a sixth of the data collected by the EPA over weeks of sampling in a nine-square-mile area of Dimock where the agency is investigating the potential impact of nearby natural gas drilling on water supplies.

In a statement Thursday, the EPA said samples from six of the 11 homes showed concentrations of sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria, but all were within the safe range for drinking water. The sampling results also identified arsenic in two homes’ water supplies, both of which are being sampled again by the agency.

“Although the (arsenic) levels meet drinking water standards, we will resample to better characterize the water quality of these wells,” EPA spokesman Roy Seneca said in the statement.

Three of the 11 homes tested during the first week of sampling are receiving replacement water deliveries from the EPA. Those deliveries will continue “while we perform additional sampling to ensure that the drinking water quality at these homes remains consistent and acceptable for use over time,” Seneca said.

The agency began testing about 60 water wells in January after the EPA’s review of past tests by the state and other groups raised concerns about contamination from Marcellus Shale drilling.

Seneca said that the agency will share more test results with Dimock homeowners “as further quality assured data becomes available for the remaining homes.”

The statement released by the EPA did not include a complete list of the compounds detected in the first 11 water supplies.

In the test results given to the families, the EPA highlighted compounds found at concentrations that exceeded what the agency described as “trigger levels” based on risk-based screening levels or the standards for public drinking water supplies.

Although all of the results were reviewed by a toxicologist before they were presented to residents, compounds above a trigger level were reviewed sooner by toxicologists and processed quicker by the agency “should we need to take an immediate action to provide water,” Seneca said.

“EPA conducted those reviews and found no health concerns,” he said.

Dimock resident Scott Ely said his test results showed five compounds above their trigger levels, including arsenic, chromium, lithium, sodium and fluoride. The arsenic level in his well water, 7.6 micrograms per liter, was below the federal drinking water standard of 10 micrograms per liter but above the 3 micrograms per liter chronic drinking water screening level for children established by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Ely, who has three small children in his home, said the results reveal “nothing surprising: my water is contaminated.”

The number of compounds in his water well that triggered an expedited toxicological review “just confirms that we have issues,” he said.

The natural gas industry said that the results confirm that their operations have not affected drinking water.

George Stark, a spokesman for Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., the firm drilling extensively in the township, said the company is “pleased that data released by EPA today on sampling of water in Dimock confirmed earlier findings that Dimock drinking water meets all regulatory standards.”

He said that the company will continue to work with the EPA as well as state and local regulators to address concerns in Dimock, but he chided federal regulators for intervening in the case.

“We hope that lessons learned from EPA’s experience in Dimock will result in the agency improving cooperation with all stakeholders and to establish a firmer basis for agency decision making in the future,” he said.

llegere@timesshamrock.com

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