Water contamination complaints filed due to drilling by Rachel Morgan, October 25, 2012, Shalereporter.com
Over the past two years, there were 11 complaints filed in Beaver County with the state Department of Environmental Protection by residents who claimed their water was contaminated because of oil and gas activity, DEP officials said. The DEP does not keep a record of how these complaints — filed from January 2011 to October 2012 — were resolved, so it’s unclear as to whether all 11 of these cases were actually instances of contamination caused by oil and gas activity. Characteristics of contaminated water include odor, color and taste problems or changes. Water could also get an orange tint or develop a salty taste or a “chemical odor,” officials said. “The DEP should be called if there is a change in quality or quantity,” said DEP spokesman John Poister. “The sooner we can investigate, the better it is for evidence gathering.”
The DEP investigates all complaints, he said. If DEP personnel determine an operator is responsible for the water contamination, they issue a report to that operator for replacement or restoration of the water supply. “We try to respond to water complaints within two days,” Poister said. “Most are handled in less than 10 days.” Private wells are only inspected if a complaint is received. They are not regularly tested by the DEP, Poister said. Poister said the DEP hasn’t observed a pattern in terms of what areas receive more complaints, though they tend to increase when there is more drilling in the area.
Municipal water supplies are under the DEP’s jurisdiction as well. “If a public supply is alleging an impact from an (oil or gas) operation, we will test it,” Poister said. “The procedure and enforcement would be the same.”
The most common contaminant is salt, Poister said.