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Water Test Results Prove Fracking Contamination In Dimock

For Immediate Release:

March 22, 2012
Contact: Ana Tinsly, Water Defense, 646-331-4765

Dimock Families, Groups Call on EPA to Compel PA to Action and Provide Replacement Water

Dimock, PA – Dimock families and advocacy groups called today on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to compel the state of Pennsylvania to provide replacement water to the residents after the Environmental Protection Agency’s own preliminary water test results show their water was contaminated from nearby gas drilling. Controversy has surfaced over EPA Region 3’s initial pronouncements that the water poses no immediate health threat. However, independent analysis from outside experts revealed the water is laced with explosive levels of methane, heavy metals, and hazardous chemicals associated with gas drilling.

Although the EPA did not release the summary test results to the public, Gasland Director Josh Fox and Water Defense procured the data from six of the affected families. In four of the six summaries, methane levels exceeded the 7 mg/l actionable threshold necessary for mitigation under Pennsylvania law—the standard previously cited by former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner John Hanger to justify the construction of a water pipeline for the residents of Carter Road. One of the test results showed methane levels seven times the PA limit.

“The building that houses my water well has a built in bomb shelter,” said resident Sheila Ely, commenting on the explosive levels of methane in her well water that could blow up her house if her water well was reconnected.

The independent experts included MacArthur“genuis” award-winner and chemist Wilma Subra, water test expert Steven Penningroth, toxicologist Theo Colborn, and SUNY Oneonta chemist Ron Bishop. All concluded that methane levels were dangerous to residents and pointed at the long chain of science implicating Cabot Oil and Gas and faulty gas wells as the source of the thermogenic gas.

Dr. Penningroth writes, “All six wells have measurable concentrations of ethane associated with the relatively high concentrations of methane noted above. The presence of methane and ethane together suggests that both may come from shale formations. In other words, the presence of ethane suggests that the methane is deep and thermogenic, not shallow and biogenic.”

The test results also showed dozens of other contaminants, including heavy metals and dangerous chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. Safe levels have not been established for a majority of these chemicals, although many can cause serious health ailments including cancer with short or long-term exposure.

“The science in this case triumphs over the spin. After a media rollercoaster ride the EPA test show conclusively that Dimock families’ water wells are contaminated with high and explosive levels of methane. The families are vindicated and their calls for a permanent water line should be heeded by US EPA,” said Josh Fox, Director of Gasland. “I’ve been working with these families for three years now. Their resilience is remarkable and I am still moved and impressed by their endurance and dignity.”

“For three years, the families of Carter Road have had to endure not only dangerous, explosive conditions, but slander and attacks from a powerful industry dedicated to silencing its critics and concealing the truth about its practices,” said Claire Sandberg, Executive Director of Water Defense. “Administrator Jackson affirmed her commitment to protecting public health when she announced the EPA would undertake this water testing. Now that the facts are in, it is incumbent on her to take action and compel the state of Pennsylvania to provide long-term replacement water for the affected families.”

“The proven water contamination in Dimock following years of denial by the gas companies highlights this industry’s blatant disregard for public health and the communities across the country where they are fracking,” said Julia Walsh, Campaign Director of Frack Action. It’s time for the federal government and our state governments alike to take a hard look at the gas industry’s practices and to take immediate action to stop any more disasters like Dimock from happening.”

“We are definitely at a crossroads with unconventional gas drilling in this country,” said United for Action President David Braun. Up until now, claims of water contamination have been dismissed by industry and others who stand to benefit financially from this dangerous practice. This is the end of the innocence. The evidence is in: Fracking is a toxic process. It’s critical that the EPA continues water deliveries to the affected families, or risk losing any and all credibility.

“This nonsense in Dimock has gone on long enough,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “The EPA needs to fulfill its duty to these residents and hold the reckless natural gas industry and the state of Pennsylvania accountable for providing a replacement source of water to the families.”

“The families of Dimock have been through enough,” said Deb Nardone, Sierra Club Natural Gas Reform Campaign Director. “Cabot Corp must be held accountable for their destruction and pollution, and the Sierra Club will stand by the families of Dimock until we find a permanent, clean water solution.”

“EPA head Lisa Jackson stepped in to provide much-needed aid this January when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection allowed Cabot to shirk responsibility for the water it destroyed,” said Kate Hudson, Watershed Program Director, Riverkeeper. “These preliminary results show what the families have long known, that the water in Dimock is not safe for use. We urge EPA to continue testing and to provide water to all of the Dimock families who have had their water destroyed by fracking, and who have been abandoned by their own state government.

“This is a horrendous situation that these families have had to deal with and it brings into question what the safety for many families across the gas patch in Pennsylvania,” said Wes Gillingham, Program Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “How many other families are getting pushed around by the industry and not getting the truth about how safe their water is? Pennsylvania DEP seems to be building a horrible legacy people will remember for generations.”

Advocacy groups called for public release of completed test results. Initial review of data provided to landowners show differing standards of safety and detection levels for the same contaminants, leaving residents questioning whether their water is safe or not.

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