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Omissions were on purpose, plaintiffs in fracking lawsuit say

Nov 6, 2012

Seven Pennsylvania families believe the state has purposely omitted data from tests conducted on their water wells that were aimed at determining whether local hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was contaminating their drinking water.

According to a New York Times report on recent testimony submitted in the case involving seven Washington County, Pa., residents against more than a dozen natural gas drilling companies operating in Pennsylvania, namely Range Resources Inc., testing conducted at the request of the state's Department of Environmental Protection omitted information related to levels of potentially dangerous metals.

The plaintiffs believe the exclusion of that data was done on purpose. The affected residents of Washington County believe local fracking drilling has contaminated their water wells and adversely affected their health. They are like hundreds, maybe thousands, of other people across the country, many of whom live in Pennsylvania, who believe fracking activity near their homes has impacted their water wells, poisoning them with the dangerous elements to fracking drilling fluid or the toxins produced during the process. 

For many residents of Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the U.S. where fracking is conducted, proving that fracking has impacted their private wells, or anything, has been a difficult task. No governmental agencies have been willing to admit that fracking activity can impact nearby water wells despite growing evidence that some of the chemicals used in the fracking process or the toxins produced or released during fracking were found in those and other wells. 

In Pennsylvania, the fight is most difficult perhaps. Regulations governing the drilling are lax, at best, and companies conducting the drilling have protections that allow nearly unchecked fracking expansion that puts more residents and natural resources at risk.

Those living closest to wells believe fracking can poison their water and the air around them. To determine whether or not fracking was responsible for contaminating their private wells, the seven suing Pennsylvania property owners had the state's DEP conduct water testing. The agency contracted a private firm to handle that task.

In testimony delivered recently, the lab scientist who analyzed the samples and compiled the results said they fulfilled the state's request. The testing included but did not report levels of copper, nickel, zinc, and titanium found in the well water, the Times report noted. These metals can be toxic if they're ingested at levels above what is deemed safe by federal standards.

The suing parties believe the omissions were done on purpose in an attempt to discredit their claims that fracking had contaminated their water. Lawyers representing the homeowners say the federally-accepted testing method used twice at the sites in question test for 24 metals but the report issued by the state only show results for one-third of them.

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