The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to supply four homeowners in northeast Pennsylvania with fresh water because their wells have become contaminated by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling.
Last week we reported on the EPA’s sudden about-face to residents of Dimock, Pa., who were told they’d get fresh water from the agency after state regulators told a natural gas company it was no longer obligated to supply those residents with fresh water. A day after telling eight Dimock families they’d get water from the EPA, the agency said the water would not be delivered.
In an update to this story, Bloomberg reports the EPA has now agreed to supply half those families with fresh water supplies. The other families have been relegated to accepting donations of fresh water from advocacy groups to make up for their completely tainted home water wells.
For the last several years, Dimock residents and hundreds more across Pennsylvania believe a boom in fracking drilling for natural gas reserves hidden in underground shale formations has led to the contamination of their private water reserves, rendering unfit for even basic household needs like flushing the toilet or bathing. Many residents of the Dimock area and those nearest fracking wells wouldn’t even consider drinking the water from their own wells as it’s become clouded with the toxins used in the drilling process, namely methane gas.
Cabot Oil & Gas Co. has installed methane gas filtering equipment for residents near Dimock who believe the fracking drilling has resulted in well contamination and for a short time had been providing select residents with fresh water until Pennsylvania’s Dept. of Environmental Protection said the company was no longer obligated to do so late last year.
Cabot maintains its fracking drilling near Dimock is not responsible for the methane contamination and believes the ground under the rural community already contains high levels of naturally-occurring methane. Pennsylvania and federal regulators have plenty of evidence that fracking could cause that level of contamination but so far have refused to publish any of that data as its own, linking fracking drilling to the pollution.
In addition to water contamination, residents closest to active fracking wells believe the drilling process is responsible for air pollution and causing health complications like difficulty breathing and skin irritation. Pennsylvania is at the center of the fracking boom in the Mid Atlantic region as it sits atop a massive shale formation, the Marcellus shale, which could contain up to $3 trillion in natural gas reserves.
Regulators have been bombarded with industry pressure not to pass any restrictions on fracking drilling, including forcing companies using the drilling process to disclose some of the most toxic agents used in the process.
The EPA said its water deliveries to four homeowners would start Friday and that it would conduct testing at 60 homes in the Dimock area to determine if fracking drilling was responsible for water contamination.