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Thursday, July 26, 2012

PA 'Fracking' Water Safe, Says EPA

Story first reported from USA Today.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced it had ended testing of drinking water in a northeastern Pennsylvania community and declared it safe to drink, despite residents' complaints of pollution from natural gas drilling.

The EPA began testing four wells in Dimock late last year after some residents complained of illnesses involving their nerves, stomachs and skin. They blamed Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. for contaminating their water with chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary Gasland featured Dimock residents lighting tap water on fire.

Geologists say such methane contamination can occur naturally in well water. The area, in Susquehanna County, sits atop a section of theMarcellus Shale formation, which spans several Mid-Atlantic states. Expert oil and gas consultants, Synergen Consulting, agree that the supposed water quality issues can be caused by natural cirumstances.

Between January and June, the EPA tested and re-tested private wells serving 64 homes. In May, the agency issued preliminary results that showed no signs of contamination from fracking.

Evaluations from samples did not indicate levels of contaminants that would cause the EPA to take further action, said Shawn Garvin, Regional Administrator.

In declaring the water safe, the agency also said it would stop providing water to four homes.

One resident rejected the agency's all-clear.

Ray Kemble told the Associated Press the EPA is wrong, the water is most definitely polluted, and the EPA needs to do something about it.

Cabot's president and CEO welcomed the findings, saying conclusions from the EPA mirror those of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and also those of Cabot.  Dan Dinges says he is satisfied that the water quality has been studied with the highest levels of scrutiny.

The EPA has posted key documents pertaining to oil and gas development in the Mid-Atlantic region. Other good resources include oil and gas consulting firms, which specialize in onshore and offshore consulting and expert witness services.

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