An extensive six-month investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has concluded that there is no indication of any elevated radioactivity in Tenmile Creek in Greene County. The latest DEP study was conducted after concerns were raised about the results of a set of surface water samples taken in the spring of 2014.
DEP’s Bureaus of Radiation Protection and District Mining Operations conducted comprehensive sampling at the same 3 locations where the earlier samples were taken at the Clyde Mine Treatment Facility (CMTF) near Clarksville, Greene County. Additionally, samples were taken at 9 other locations both upstream and downstream of the CMTF. Surface water samples were taken along with samples of sediment, sludge, soil, aquatic vegetation, and fish.
“Our goal was to get a complete picture of any possible radiological contamination,” said John Stefanko, DEP Executive Deputy Secretary for Programs. “The original 2014 samples used a basic methodology that provides a limited sensitivity for naturally occurring radioactive materials. The 2015 samples were analyzed using U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved methodologies for determining radium-226 and radium-228 in water, plants, soil, or fish. The 2015 water samples were taken when the average daily stream flows within the watershed were at near normal flow conditions.”
All water samples were below the EPA drinking water limit of 5 picocuries per liter(pC/L) for radium-226 and radium-228. DEP did not find any indication of accumulated radiation in the sediment, plants, or fish.
One sample, of treatment sludge in a tank at the CMTF, indicated a radioactivity level for radium-228 at 19.539 pCi/L, which is not a level of concern but was a point of interest for DEP. DEP’s Bureau of Mining Programs staff determined that because the treatment facility uses a high-density sludge which recirculates treatment sludge to remove contaminants from water, the radium values would be concentrated. Water exiting the CMTF did not contain a radium level above typical background radiation readings. Although the Department does not believe the radium-228 level is cause for concern, as a matter of public interest it will periodically resample and analyze the CMTF sludge in 2016.
A set of non-radiological water samples was taken simultaneously with the radiological samples to characterize the water flowing into the creek from the CMTF. DEP’s Bureau of Mining Programs staff analyzed the sample results and concluded that the flow of raw and treated mine water was typical mine drainage, consistent with what would originate from a flooded underground coal mine in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
“Ultimately, there were no surprises in the environmental samples we took,” said Stefanko. “The radiological results were in line with expected background radiation readings. The non-radiological samples were consistent with what we regularly see in flooded underground mines in this region.”
Welcome to Pennsylvania and Welcome to Managing Your Own Small Water Company
In Pennsylvania, there are generally no specific construction standards for private wells and there is only some general guidance with respect to well placement and construction. Further, private well water is not regulated by the EPA or PADEP and therefore it is up to YOU to check your water to ensure that the well produces good clean and adequate water. This is only a short summary of the information. If you are interested we offer a Private Well Owner Training Course that can be offered as a Workshop for Your Community, Association, or other Organization.
There are a number of steps to this process and well will break them down as follows:
Well Testing (Yield and Quality)
Annual Water Testing
In general, the primary guidance with to water well placement in Pennsylvania is that a water well should be 100 feet from a septic system (regulated), 50 feet from a septic tank (regulated), 10 feet from a sewer line under pressure (regulated), and 10 feet from a property line. To be honest, these isolation distance do not consider impacts from other natural conditions or activities. In general, we would recommend the following:
1. If possible, the private well owner should control all activities within a 50 to 100 foot radius of the wellhead, i.e.., top of the water well. These activities should include: use of pesticides and herbicides, storage of toxic or hazardous chemicals, storage or management of manure and other waste, diversion of surface water and runoff, overuse of the area by grazing animals, location of burrow pits, burn pipes, rubbish storage, or storage of used cars or other items that may contain antifreeze, oils, and greases.
2. Well casing should extend at least 12 inches above grade.
3. Well should be fitted with a sanitary well cap that has some form of venting.
4. The well should be located at least 10 feet from a property line.
Other suggested isolation distances
Delineated wetlands or floodplains (25 feet)- with top of casing 3 feet above flood elevation.
Surface waters (25 feet) Storm water Systems (25 feet)
BioInfiltration Stormwater Systems (50 feet +)
Spray Irrigation/ Septage Disposal (100 feet+)
Sinkholes and Closed Depressions (100 feet +)
Farm silos / manure storage (200 feet) Septic Systems (100 feet)
Septic Tanks/Holding Tanks (50 feet)
Chemical Storage/Preparation Area (300 feet)
1. Prefer the use of steel casing that extends at least 15 feet to 20 feet into firm bedrock or 60 feet below ground, whichever is greater.
2. Casing should be of adequate wall thickness to deal with corrosion and stress – 19lb casing.
3. The base of the casing should contain a driveshoe on the bottom of the casing and casing centralized in the borehole.
4. Wells drilled by a licensed well driller using only potable water as the drilling fluid.
5. Casing should be double circumferential welded or threaded casing
6. Well caps should be sanitary well caps that are properly vented.
7. Annular space should have a grout layer that is at least 1.5 inches thick.
8. Pitless adapters should be used over well pits.
Well Testing (Yield and Quality)
After the well is drilled, the well should be developed using surging, air-lift, or pumping the well. This is done to clean out the well cuttings and improve yield. In some cases, this needs to be done to improve the efficiency of the borehole. If the well yield is low, some well drillers will hydrofrac the well. If you are going to hydrofrac a water well, we recommend zone hydraulic fracturing to isolate the deeper potential water-bearing zones. After the well development has been completed, a shock wellbore disinfection should be conducted. The well should be allowed to fully recover and a minimum 2-hour yield test is recommend. After the yield testing, the well should be shock disinfected. For information on shock disinfection – we recommend visiting Water-Research Center. The well yield data should include the static water level (water level before pumping), maximum dynamic water level (maximum depth to water during pumping), pumping rate, and length of the pumping test. This data should be included on the well log and the specific capacity of the well should be reported. The specific capacity is the rate of yield or gallons per minute per foot of drawdown. The drawdown is the difference between the static and dynamic water level measurement.
Before the end of the yield testing, it is recommended that a general water quality analysis of the well be conducted. This testing should include bacterial quality, general water quality, and specific parameters that are known problems for your region. Do not rely on a free water analysis or a basic water quality screening down by the well driller. This should be either information or certified testing conducted by a laboratory. For information on this type of testing, please contact the Keystone Clean Water Team or the Water-Research Center. The initial water quality testing data should be reviewed and evaluated. The first well or city water quality test should be a comprehensive water quality check. If you are want informational water testing, we would recommend either the Well Water Check or the City Water Check Option. This evaluation should include the need for any further action to improve the well security, continue with well development, or add equipment to improve well water quality. In some cases, water treatment systems are installed as an additional barrier or layer of protection. In many cases, the only type of additional treatment that is needed is a whole-house particle filter and a sanitary well cap. For information on Do-it-Yourself Water Treatment Systems.
Well and System Maintenance
At a minimum, the well water system should go through an annual inspection. This inspection could be associated with the annual water quality test or inspection of any water treatment systems. During this evaluation, the aesthetic quality of the water should be evaluated and some basic field water quality screening should be conducted. For the field water screening, it is possible this can be done using a number of low-cost meters or an informational water quality screening test.
Annual Water Testing
Depending on the results of the initial evaluation, the results should be evaluated to determine what are the water quality parameters that should be monitored to help track the general water quality of the well. If a water treatment system was installed, the annual water quality evaluation should include the performance of the water treatment system. If you need help with determining what you need, WE can Help – Here is a partial listing of the informational water screening tests ! The Keystone Clean Water Team can provide guidance on the selection of water quality parameters, review water quality data, and make recommendations on the water quality parameters. At a minimum, the Keystone Clean Water Team offers a Health Screen Test (only $ 50 if you have the sample bottles (video)) and testing includes bacteria, pH, conductivity, iron, manganese (if suspected), nitrate, total dissolved solids, total hardness, and alkalinity (Health Screen Test Order Form). If you are interested, you may want to obtain a copy of our Educational Booklet and Brochure.
Everything we do began with an idea.
We have offered “Free” Assistance to this effort, but if you are a private well owner that needs assistance we are happy to help.
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. Get YOUR WATER Tested – Discounted Screening Tests !
Keystone Clean Water Team is a 501(c)(3) IRS approved nonprofit, volunteer organization and your donation is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law. Unsolicited donations are appreciated (Helps us complete our mission), but we also do local educational workshops and local cellphone/small electronic recycling programs. If you would like to set up a program to help recycle cellphones at an event, business, or other organization. Through our program we can recycle cell phones, iPods, game systems, and small digital cameras. If your interested, please contact us.
This story was released on August 28, 2014 by the Associated Press. The link to the story is “Online list IDs water wells harmed by drilling” (Looks like article was removed- 9/28/2014). First- I am not a fan of the title, but the list does provide insights into the number of private wells that the PADEP has concluded were directly influenced by oil and gas development in Pennsylvania during the period from 2008 to 2014- Regional_Determination_Letters . Also, this story was pre-dated by a very good story in the Sunday Times in May 19, 2013.
May 2013 Story
As of May 2013, the PADEP had determined that 161 private wells had been adversely impacted by oil and natural gas development in PA over the period from 2008 to 2o12. But during this period, over 1000 cases or problems with private wells were evaluated. A quote from the article
“Inspectors declared the vast majority of complaints – 77 percent of 969 records – unfounded, lacking enough evidence to tie them definitively to drilling or caused by a different source than oil and gas exploration, like legacy pollution, natural conditions or mining. One in six investigations across the roughly five-year period – 17 percent of the records – found that oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source.”
Question Number 1 – what caused or is causing 77% of the problem? – Is this NOT important? Answer – NO one seems to be asking.
Question Number 2 – How many were temporary?
Statement 1: The 2013 and 2014 article proves what we have been saying since 2009. Oil and gas development has the potential to adversely impact private wells. The cause is most likely related or associated with drilling, methane migration associated with cementing / casing issues, spills, pipeline construction (shallow excavation) and the use of impoundments to store waste. We have been saying this since 2009 and so has the PADEP. Also, we recommended baseline testing parameters based on the pathways that were cited and suspected.
Statement 2: The common problems appear to be methane, Lower Explosion Limit, iron, manganese, aluminum, arsenic, and turbidity. We included these parameters in our baseline testing list, plus saline water indicates such as bromide and lithium well before PADEP, PSU, and others.
Statement 3: No credible source has ever said Oil and Gas Development could not adversely impact a private well. What has been said – there is not evidence that that hydraulic fracturing portion of the development has caused a problem. There has been many historic cases related to loss of circulation during drilling, mud migration, spills, surface disturbance, methane gas migration because of cement issues, spills, and releases from impoundments.
August 2014 Story
Statement 1: After looking at the 2014 article and the individual determination letters from PADEP for the Eastern Portion of Pennsylvania (excluding the first 19 because this is the Dimock Data- We Did a Well by Well Evaluation of the EPA Dimock Data)- we found the following:
Eastern Data Set –
Drilling – 84
Impoundment Leak – 1
Spill/ Surface Containment Issue – 1
LEL – > 10% LEL in wellhead – 4
Presumption – The Operator was presumed to be at fault – 20 %
Temporary Problem that resolved – 26 % (but still a problem for a period of up to a year)
Methane at any level – 78 cases
Methane > 28 mg/L – 24 cases
Methane > 10 mg/L – 68 cases
Methane < 10 mg/L – 6 cases
Methane < 5 mg/L – 2 cases
From a review of the letters of determination, it appears that the PADEP made the determination in less than 2 months. I believe there is a regulatory requirement to make a determination in 45 days or less.
Other Interesting Notes
1. In one well the methane ranged from 0.29 to 148 mg/L
2. Two cases wellhead LEL was the determining factor and in one case the methane level in water was less than 2 mg/L – probably a venting issue.
3. Two springs were impacted.
4. Barium – two cases had pre-drill problems.
5. Only 1 case where organics were the issue – associated with a fire suppression activity because of loss of control at the wellhead. Suppressant was used at the surface.
What this tells us:
1. Most of the problems appear to be related to iron and manganese – these makes it difficult because it is a common and intermittent water quality problem in the region.
2. Methane is another factor – but it is critical to document both methane and all other gas issues and LEL levels.
3. Other parameters of importance include aluminum (we recommend in 2009) and barium, chloride, total dissolved solids, and zinc.
4. The process seems to work, but it would be great to have access to the raw data.
Again – trying to provide a fact based review of the information and use wisely. The main questions:
1. How many other wells reported a problem?
2. How many of these wells had a problem unrelated to oil and gas development? What was the cause?
3. How many private wells were impacted by other permitted activities or road salting efforts over the period from 2008 to 2014?
Final Question – If we do not create private well construction standards and fix the poorly constructed private wells – Will we really Ever Control this Potential Pathway for Groundwater Contamination.
Action You can Take!
1. Get your Well Water Baseline Testing Completed.
2. Have the data reviewed.
3. Release the Data -Data Only to the Citizens Database
4. Learn the Facts and Monitor Your Well Water Quality – Work as a Community!
5. Support the Keystone Clean Water Team – Facebook, Twitter, and maybe a Donation?
We seek new people at all skill levels for a variety of programs. One thing that everyone can do is attend meetings to share ideas on improving KCWT/CCGG, enabling us to better understand and address the concerns of well owners. We need individuals to provide copies of our brochure and information at local events, consider hosting a presentation, and sharing our facebook and twitter posts.
Everything we do began with an idea.
We realize your time is precious and the world is hectic. KCWT/ CCGG’s volunteers do only what they’re comfortable with. It can be a little or a lot.
Pennsylvania New Guideline for Baseline Testing – Minimum Parameters Natural Gas Development- Pre-Drill
In April 2014, the PADEP released a new list of suggested baseline testing parameters. PADEP recommended Basic Oil and Gas- Pre-Drill Parameters. The new listing is as follows:
Total Dissolved Solids
Suggested Additions by PADEP
Total Suspended Solids
Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons – West PA strong Recommendation.
Get a copy of the PADEP Document.
1. We are glad to see that PADEP is updating the list of parameters, but there are still a few parameters that are missing. If possible, we would suggest that you speak with a professional and evaluate the need to add BTEX or the 21 – regulated/unregulated VOCs with MTBE, surfactants, and if you currently have low pH and a corrosion related issue – copper and lead.
2. If the well is deep and does have issues with chloride or Total dissolved solids approaching a drinking water standard , we would recommend testing for alpha/beta and uranium.
3. If you have a radon in air mitigation system, we recommend testing radon in water.
4. If you have sulfur or rotten egg odors, we would recommend standard plate count, nuisance bacteria, documentation of the odor and characteristics of the water, and testing for sulfide.
5. If you have a septic system or you are located near a farm, we would strongly recommend adding nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia.
6. The pH, conductivity, temperature, and ORP should be documented in the field and the pH and conductivity should be checked in the laboratory. In addition, it would be advisable to measure the turbidity in the field. If laboratory testing is going to be conducted a shorter holding time should be used and the sample measured ASAP. In addition, the sample collector should not the appearance, color, odor, or other aesthetic quality of the water.
More Information on the Groundwater Quality in PA and Baseline Testing
We also offer educational workshops on this topic and help provide citizens evaluate their water quality.
We seek new people at all skill levels for a variety of programs. One thing that everyone can do is attend meetings to share ideas on improving the Keystone Clean Water Team (CCGG Program), enabling us to better understand and address the concerns of well owners. We look for people that can forward solid articles, help coordinate local education efforts, and more. Become part of the Keystone Clean Water Team!.
Everything we do began with an idea.
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. Get YOUR WATER Tested – Discounted Screening Tests ! Get educated on Drinking Water Quality in Pennsylvania.
Keystone Clean Water Team /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. The IRS Officially Approved Name change to the Keystone Clean Water Team by the IRS. Unsolicited donations are appreciated (Helps us complete our mission).
The new location – VFW Barto Post 6553 at 65 Run St. in Slovan, Washington County.
Immediately following the open house which starts at 6:30 pm- the hearing will start. The anticipated start time is at 7:30 p.m., members of the public may present up to five minutes of formal testimony for the public record. The testimony will be recorded by a court reporter and transcribed into a written document, and DEP will create a written response to all relevant testimony.
Those who wish to present oral testimony should contact DEP Community Relations Coordinator John Poister at 412-442-4203 or register that evening prior to the hearing. Only those who register can give testimony at the public hearing.
For anyone unable to attend the public hearing, written comment should be submitted by the close of business on May 11 to Alan Binder, PA DEP Bureau of Air Quality, Southwest Regional Office, 400 Waterfront Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.
Website Provided for Educational Purpose.
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.
Join the PA Water Forum on Facebook
Private Well Owner Outreach Program
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
By JACOB SEIBEL TN Correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
Unpermitted sewer lines that discharge untreated sewage, known as wildcat sewers, have officially delayed the nearly decade-long Act 537 project for West Penn Township and Walker Township.
With the plan supposed to be finished by the end of December before what supervisors hoped to be the start of the implementation process of fixing defective sewers in the township, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has called for further investigation into the wildcat sewers.
Although an investigation of the wildcats was unavoidable, West Penn Township Solicitor Gretchen Sterns and Township Engineer Ronald B. Madison, PE hoped that it could be done while the project was being worked on. They said there is no sense to delay the project to investigate a problem that they already know is there.
“I find that it is unbelievable, quite frankly,” Sterns said at last evening’s supervisor meeting, “that DEP showed great concern that there are areas where these wildcat sewers are where you literally have black water is coming out, causing a huge pollution concern, but their response is not to fix it. Their response is lets study it some more. I’m appalled, frankly, by that result.”
“Unfortunately, it’s more time and more expense,” Madison said.
The estimated cost for West Penn and Walker Township since the planning phase of Act 537 began in 2003 up this point has been $356,107.
A West Penn Township board of supervisors reorganization meeting will be Monday, Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. in the municipal building.
Breaking: PA Rep. Jesse White Challenges DEP Over Deceptive Marcellus Shale Water Testing Practices
by Iris Marie Bloom
November 2, 2012
An explosive press release issued yesterday by Pennsylvania State Representative Jesse White alleges formally, based on a deposition by a high-ranking PA DEP official, what many residents of “shale country” in Pennsylvania have been saying for years: that PA DEP water testing data is manipulated in order to avoid disclosing shale gas drilling water impacts to those affected.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the story 20 minutes ago, “Lawmaker Challenges PA DEP’s Reporting of Gas Well Water Safety.” Read Post-Gazette reporter Don Hopeys’ article here. [ http://pipeline.post-gazette.com/news/archives/24893-lawmaker-challenges-pa-dep-s-reporting-of-gas-well-water-safety ]
Due to the riveting importance of this call for investigation of PA DEP’s integrity, and due to the severe health impacts experienced by some of those whose water has been fouled by shale gas drilling processes in Pennsylvania, we are publishing Rep. Jesse White’s press release in full: [ http://pahouse.com/PR/046110112.asp ]
White calls on state, federal authorities for investigation of DEP over deceptive Marcellus Shale water-quality testing practices
Testimony by DEP lab chief reveals possibility of intentionally undisclosed public health risks from Marcellus Shale gas drilling
HARRISBURG, Nov. 1 – State Rep. Jesse White, D-Allegheny/Beaver/Washington, today called for state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for alleged misconduct and fraud revealed by sworn testimony given by a high-ranking DEP official.
White said he received a letter and corresponding documents highlighting the sworn testimony of DEP Bureau of Laboratories Technical Director Taru Upadhyay, who was deposed in a lawsuit alleging nearby natural gas drilling operations contaminated drinking water supplies in Washington County, causing serious health issues. In the deposition, Upadhyay said that the DEP was clearly aware of water impacts from Marcellus Shale drilling, but no notices of violation were filed – a violation of the state’s Oil & Gas Act.
Of more critical concern to Pennsylvania residents, according to White, was that the deposition revealed that the DEP developed a specialized computer-code system to manipulate the test results for residents whose water was tested by the DEP over concerns of adverse effects from gas drilling operations.
According to the transcripts, which have been filed as exhibits in a related lawsuit in Washington County Court of Common Pleas (Haney et al. v. Range Resources et al., Case No. 2012-3534), the DEP lab would conduct water tests using an EPA-approved standard, but the DEP employee who requested the testing would use a specially designed ‘Suite Code’ which limits the information coming back from the DEP lab to the DEP field office, and ultimately to the property owner.
The code in question, Suite Code 942, was used to test for water contamination associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities, yet specifically screens out results for substances known to be hazardous and associated with Marcellus Shale drilling. Similar codes, Suite Code 943 and 946, are also used by the DEP in similar circumstances; both of these codes omit the presence or levels of drilling-related compounds.
As a result, if Suite Code 942 is applied, the report generated for the homeowner by DEP only includes eight of the 24 metals actually tested for: Barium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Sodium and Strontium. The homeowner would not be given results for: Silver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron.
“This is beyond outrageous. Anyone who relied on the DEP for the truth about whether their water has been impacted by drilling activities has apparently been intentionally deprived of critical health and safety information by their own government,” White said. “There is no excuse whatsoever to justify the DEP conducting the water tests and only releasing partial information to residents, especially when the information withheld could easily be the source of the problem. This goes beyond incompetence; this is unlawful and reprehensible activity by the DEP. If these allegations are true, there needs to be a thorough and objective investigation to determine if someone belongs in a jail cell.”
White continued: “I am not releasing this information to hurt Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania, but to help ensure the reality matches the rhetoric. The Marcellus boom was built on the assumption that the DEP was competent and capable of balancing the positive impacts of the industry with its job of keeping residents safe and secure, but we now know that simply isn’t the case. Like most of us, I want the Marcellus Shale industry to succeed by doing things the right way, so it is crucial to find out what exactly the DEP was up to. If the system is indeed rigged, we must do everything in our power to root out corruption and restore public confidence in our ability to have an honest conversation with one another about developing a responsible energy policy for Pennsylvania.”
Due to the strong possibility of unlawful conduct, White is calling on the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Environmental Protection Agency, state Attorney General Linda Kelly and any other appropriate law enforcement agency to pursue an investigation of the DEP to discover the scope and depth of this scheme to withhold important information from Pennsylvanians. White is also sending a letter to the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (NJ-NELAP), to investigate whether the DEP’s conduct and practices violated the accreditation standards for the DEP laboratories. If accreditation standards were violated, White is requesting the DEP’s accreditation be stripped, rendering the agency unable to conduct and certify its own tests.
White said he is sending a letter to DEP Secretary Michael Krancer seeking a summary of how many constituents in his legislative district, which includes communities with high levels of Marcellus Shale drilling activity, had DEP tests done using Suite Codes 942, 943 or 946. White also intends to make a blanket request on behalf of his constituents that DEP release the full testing data directly to the individual property owners in question.
Any Pennsylvania resident who received water quality test results from the DEP should look for the number 942, 943 or 946 as a ‘Suite Code’ or ‘Standard Analysis’. White encouraged anyone with questions to contact his district office at 724-746-3677 for more information and noted that the property owner should be entitled to the complete testing results from DEP.
“This isn’t a technicality, and it isn’t something which can be ignored,” White said. “We are talking about people’s health, safety and welfare. The sworn testimony from inside the DEP about a scheme to withhold vital information about potential water contamination is truly alarming. An investigation is necessary to answer these serious allegations.”
The letter sent to Rep. White alerting him of these issues can be found at:http://www.scribd.com/doc/111821139
The deposition of TaruUpadhyay, technical director of PA DEP Laboratory can be found at:http://www.scribd.com/doc/111821978
Take Action: Speak Up
Beyond absorbing this important news, this is the time to write your letters to the editor and otherwise speak in public, including direct confrontation at public meetings, to demand an immediate halt on on high-volume hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. Residents and workers’ health is being hurt, yet the industry is keeping toxic secrets, with help from far too many friends in high places.
Not to be forgotten in our outrage over PA public officials’ betrayal of public health: the big picture. Fracking accelerates climate change. Even as we post this, over 1.6 million people are without power from mega-storm Sandy; the death toll continues to rise. Extreme weather events are occurring, and will occur, more frequently and with greater severity due to climate change. Climate change is the greatest single threat to all of our health. Whether you drink water from a well that could be impacted — and you now know you are not protected by either our state or federal authorities — or whether you breathe air already impacted by the hundreds of thousands of diesel-powered truck trips, flowback waste emissions, compressor station emissions and pipeline leaks inherent in fracking; or whether you want our people to stop escalating the ravages of global warming, now is the time to speak up and demand change.
CALL FOR ABSTRACTS [ http://agsci.psu.edu/pawaterabstract ]
Pennsylvania Groundwater Symposium
May 8, 2013
Penn State University, University Park, PA
Abstract Deadline is December 3, 2012
Abstracts can be submitted at: http://agsci.psu.edu/pawaterabstract
In celebration of National Drinking Water Week, Penn State Extension’s Master Well Owner Network and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection along with numerous other sponsors invite you to submit abstracts for the 2013 Pennsylvania Groundwater Symposium at Penn State University in University Park, PA. The Symposium theme: Emerging Issues in a Changing Landscape will provide a forum for researchers, students, professionals and educators working in the groundwater field to exchange information and promote protection of groundwater resources throughout the state.
Abstracts will be accepted through December 3, 2012 for short presentations or posters on a wide variety of groundwater topics including:
• Groundwater processes
• Wellhead protection
• Water well studies
• Emerging contaminants
• Data availability
• Groundwater monitoring
• Aquifer studies
• Groundwater/surface water interactions
• Issues related to energy extraction
• Education and outreach
The conference planning committee will review all abstracts and notify authors of acceptance via email by December 14, 2012. The conference registration site and agenda will be available by February 1, 2013. Thanks to generous support from sponsors, we currently expect a nominal registration fee of approximately $25 to $30 for this symposium. We hope you can join us for this event showcasing Pennsylvania’s valuable groundwater resource!
Published: August 16, 2012
State environmental regulators told The Associated Press last year that they spend as little as 35 minutes reviewing each of thousands of permit applications for natural gas wells, even though the environment surrounding each well is unique to that site.
Gov. Tom Corbett’s reaction? That’s not fast enough.
After cutting the DEP budget by more than $20 million during his first 18 months in office, the governor issued an executive order July 24 that will pressure DEP personnel to quickly complete their reviews, regardless of conditions on the ground. It requires the DEP to set specific deadlines for DEP decisions and makes compliance with those deadlines part of the employees’ performance evaluation standards.
DEP’s appropriate mission, of course, is environmental protection rather than mere speed. The governor would have the agency treat all complete permit applications alike even though each location has unique environmental features.
Even under existing procedures, DEP staffers told the AP, evaluators did not spend extra time on applications to drill near fragile waterways that have specific state and federal protections.
The order is curious in several ways.
It rescinds an executive order issued in 1995 by Gov. Tom Ridge, under which the DEP refunded permit fees to applicants if the agency did not review applications within a set time period. Since then, the DEP has refunded a tiny portion of application fees.
According to the governor, he acted because the complaint “I have received over and over again is the time it takes for businesses, nonprofit organizations and governments to work through the permitting process.”
What one hears, of course, is a function of to whom one listens. Corbett listens very intently to the gas industry, especially since his insistence on vast tax breaks for a gas-based Shell petrochemical refinery in Beaver County that will require an array of environmental clearances. His hearing relative to the environmental impact of drilling has been far more selective. Corbett’s executive order would be more appropriate for an economic development agency, but that is not the legitimate mission of the DEP. The order is a back-door means to diminish environmental protection.
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.
Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter
EnergyWire: Thursday, July 26, 2012