209 Water Supplies Damaged By Drilling Since Late 2007 by Laura Legere, July 22, 2014, PA Environmental Daily
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported information from the Department of Environmental Protection Tuesday which shows 209 water supplies were affected by drilling since the end of 2007.
Bradford County had the highest number of affected wells at 48, followed by Susquehanna County– 35, McKean County– 24 and Forest County– 17.
- 18 cases of water supply impacts in 2008,
- 47 in 2009,
- 34 in 2010,
- 34 in 2011,
- 35 in 2012,
- 33 in 2013 and
- five through May of this year out of about 20,000 wells drilled so far.
DEP will post more detailed information on affect water supplies and the enforcement actions taken by the agency to ensure water supplies are restored in the near future. DEP is voluntarily sharing this information with the public without formal requests from the news media as has been the case in the past. [Emphasis added]
Report cites damage to Pa. water supplies by Seattlepi.com, July 22, 2014 — Newly released records show that gas and oil extraction has damaged Pennsylvania water supplies more than 200 times since 2007. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported…the information Tuesday, based on a Department of Environmental Protection spreadsheet that it obtained through a Right-to-Know Law request.
The spreadsheet lists 209 water supplies by county, municipality and the date that DEP regulators determined that activities related to gas or oil extraction contaminated or diminished the flow to a water source.
It doesn’t identify the companies or the nature of the harm to the water
It was released on the same day that state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released an audit alleging that the DEP has failed to adequately monitor well safety or provide clear and timely information to citizens about natural-gas drilling. [Emphasis added]
DEP: Oil and gas operations damaged water supplies 209 times since end of ’07 by Laura Legere, July 22, 2014, Pittsburg Post-Gazette
Oil and gas operations have damaged Pennsylvania water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007, according to official determinations compiled by the Department of Environmental Protection that the agency is preparing to release for the first time. State environmental regulators are planning to post the information on DEP’s website this month, but an early version of the spreadsheet was provided to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in response to an open records request.
The spreadsheet lists the 209 affected water supplies by county, municipality and the date regulators concluded that activities related to oil or gas extraction were to blame for contaminating or diminishing the flow to a water source. [It appears many contaminated water wells are missing from the spreadsheet]
The document does not disclose property owners’ names or addresses and it does not detail which companies that were deemed responsible for the damage, what caused the disruptions or what pollutants were found in the water. DEP’s deputy secretary for oil and gas management, Scott Perry, said the agency intends to enhance the spreadsheet by adding links to the letters or orders related to each case at some point, which should reveal more information about how water was affected.
Environmental regulators are required by law to determine within 45 days of getting a drilling-related water complaint if oil and gas operations contaminated a water supply or reduced its flow. DEP reports its findings in letters to property owners. It also issues orders to companies to fix the damage in cases where oil and gas operations are found to be accountable or are presumed to be the cause because of the proximity between drilling activities and a disrupted groundwater source.
Those conclusions are public records. [Contamination cases caused by the oil and gas industry are covered up in Alberta, and baseline water well testing data withheld, even after paying over $4,000 dollars under FOIP, and years in reviews and inquiry by the OIP office, and even after the “public” records were officially ordered released after adjudication]
After initially fighting news organizations’ requests for the determination letters and arguing it would be too difficult to find all of them in its files, DEP has increasingly provided access to the documents in the last year after courts required their release and as public interest in the information has grown.
When DEP posts the tally of damaged water supplies this month, it will mark the first time the agency has released its official accounting of drilling-related pollution and diminution cases on its website.
“This frequently requested information is being shared with the public in our continued effort to be as open and transparent as possible,” DEP spokeswoman Morgan Wagner wrote in an email. She said the department plans to update the list as more determinations are made.
The number of impacts is small relative to the number of new oil and gas wells drilled during the same time period – nearly 20,000, according to DEP records.
Patrick Creighton, a spokesman for the industry trade group the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said in a statement that “this data further demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of oil and natural gas wells in Pennsylvania – over 99 percent – have been developed without any impact on ground or well water.”
But people who have seen their water disrupted often describe the experience as uniquely unsettling.
“There are 209 contamination cases since 2008, which is a lot, in my book, especially when you are talking about somebody’s drinking water supply,” said Steve Hvozdovich, the Marcellus Shale coordinator for the environmental group Clean Water Action.
The DEP spreadsheet reveals that oil and gas operations have affected water supplies in nearly every region where drilling occurs, from the shale gas sweet spots in northeastern Pennsylvania to the traditional oil and gas patch in the state’s northwest corner. DEP found that drilling activities damaged water supplies in Bradford County 48 times – the most of any county – followed by Susquehanna County (35 times), McKean County (24 times) and Forest County (17 times).
DEP’s southwest regional office issued the fewest water impact determinations of the three regional offices that oversee the industry. It found drilling activities caused water supply problems 13 times in six years: eight times in Indiana County, twice each in Washington and Westmoreland counties, and once in Fayette County. The rate of problems has stayed flat in recent years following a surge in cases between 2008 and 2009 as shale gas extraction increased in the northeast region and methane trapped in shallow rock layers escaped into groundwater through flaws in some new wells there.
DEP found 18 cases of water supply impacts in 2008, 47 in 2009, 34 in 2010, 34 in 2011, 35 in 2012, 33 in 2013 and five through May of this year.
The Marcellus Shale Coalition spokesman said the organization believes it’s critical to make data such as this publicly available, “with appropriate context,” including the fact that Pennsylvania doesn’t have private well water construction standards and many water supplies are in poor condition or contain methane for reasons entirely unrelated to oil and gas extraction. “Before our members begin well development activities, exhaustive baseline water sampling is conducted by certified third parties, which frequently extends beyond state requirements,” Mr. Creighton said, adding that the baseline testing gives homeowners important water quality and public health-related information.
Environmentalists applauded DEP for releasing the information, although they quickly added that it is only a first step. Mr. Hvozdovich said he is “glad to see that DEP is taking some concrete steps to try to improve transparency on this issue, especially considering how disorganized they were and how secretive water impacts from natural gas drilling were in Pennsylvania.”
But he called the information in the spreadsheet “pretty woefully below what the public deserves to see” and encouraged DEP to add details such as what types of impacts oil and gas operations have caused to water sources, which companies were involved, whether shale gas drillers or operators of shallow, traditional wells were found responsible, how companies addressed the problems and whether they were fined.
Academic researchers said even the spare information in the document so far will still be useful for understanding the geographic distribution of drilling-related issues across the state. And it might encourage the public to ask for more readily available data. [Emphasis added]
Auditor General criticizes DEP oversight of shale gas industry by Laura Legere, July 22, 2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
HARRISBURG – The Auditor General issued a withering review today of the Department of Environmental Protection’s oversight of the shale gas industry and the regulatory agency’s practices for responding to citizens’ complaints that drilling has affected their drinking water.
The long-promised performance audit details the agency’s shortcomings, including failing to consistently issue enforcement orders to drilling companies after regulators determined that gas operations had damaged water supplies, even though the state’s oil and gas law requires it.
In a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett that accompanies the audit, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale wrote that while DEP merits criticism for its performance, the dedication of DEP’s employees to protecting the environment is not in question. “DEP needs assistance,” he wrote. “It is underfunded, understaffed, and does not have the infrastructure in place to meet the continuing demands placed upon the agency by expanded shale gas development.”
The report, which can be viewed below, lists seven areas where DEP fell short of its obligations during the study period between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2012, in addition to the inconsistent water supply replacement orders: The agency had unclear or untimely communication with citizens regarding potential water contamination, used an ineffective complaint tracking system, missed targets for inspecting active shale gas wells, relied on a disjointed system of forms and industry self-reporting for tracking shale waste, and left gaps in the collection and online presentation of compliance information.
Auditors were given “unprecedented access” to DEP files, but the report’s authors note that they cannot claim full access because “DEP’s documentation was, and continues to be, egregiously poor.”
Act 13 requires DEP to take enforcement action against drillers who refuse to restore or replace damaged water supplies, DEP said in its response, but companies often restore water supplies [how does one unfrac water supplies?] voluntarily before official orders are necessary.
The auditors disagreed with this collaborative approach, writing that it “raises concerns that DEP chooses to play the role of a mediator instead of a regulator,” and gives the impression, whether real or not, that companies can “make a deal” and avoid an enforcement action on their record.
View the Auditor General report below or click here to download the document. [Emphasis added]
[Refer also to:
Industry Fuming because Peer-Reviewed Study Finds Newer and Unconventional Gas Wells Leak Methane More than Older and Conventional Wells; Problem Could be Nation-wide Putting Aquifers and Families at Risk
“These results, particularly in light of numerous contamination complaints and explosions nationally in areas with high concentrations of unconventional oil and gas development and the increased awareness of the role of methane in … climate change, should be cause for concern,” said the researchers in the paper. [Emphasis added]
Frac impacts to water in Pennsylvania sound like those in Alberta:
An Alberta government lawyer argued in court this week that Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit on hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination should be struck down on the grounds that it would open a floodgate of litigation against the province.
“There could be millions or billions of dollars worth of damages,” argued Crown counsel Neil Boyle.
2004: Enabled by Alberta regulators and elected officials, Encana violates the Water Act and secretly repeatedly frac’s with high pressure and massive fluid volumes, intentionally into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers (login required, enter 02-06-04-27-22-W4M). Publicly, Encana, the regulators and politicians promised companies would never do this, after it had already been done.
2001: Enabled by Alberta regulators and elected officials, Encana perf’s into fresh water zones at Rosebud (login required, enter 05-14-27-22-W4M). Publicly, Encana, the regulators and politicians promised companies would never do this, after it had already been done.
Click on map above to get PDF for close up view
Edmonton Journal Front Page photo by Chris Schwartz of Ernst’s water, December 13, 2005
Slides from Ernst presentations. Encana is not supplying water to families harmed by the company’s frac’ing, not even when it broke the law. Encana is not supplying water to the Campbells by Ponoka or to the Hamlet of Rosebud and citizens on private water wells that were contaminated. Encana also, did not pay for the Hamlet’s new water tower after it was destroyed in an explosion in 2005, caused by “an accumulation of gases.”