Initial results of federal testing for contamination to water wells at Dimock, Pa., due to localized hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling are expected this week.
Associated Press reports the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be ready to release initial results from the samples it has taken recently near the small northeast Pennsylvania village that’s gained a national reputation as one of the epicenters of the battle over the controversial fuel capturing method. These results are likely to be met with intense skepticism at the state government level, where a pro-fracking Governor has indicated since taking office he’s a friend of the industry and believes it can help the Commonwealth recover from down economic times.
The EPA said earlier this year it would conduct air, water, and soil sampling from more than a dozen property owners in the Dimock area to validate residents’ claims that widespread nearby fracking operations had poisoned their water. Agency tests in Wyoming and Texas released in the last few months were the first time in decades the EPA ruled that fracking could lead to localized contamination of water. Its exploratory wells dug near Pavilion, Wyo., revealed that nearby fracking wells were contaminating groundwater supplies with methane gas and other harmful toxins.
In the last three years, much of Pennsylvania has seen an onslaught of fracking drillers converge upon the state, taking advantage of lax environmental regulations and pro-industry governor in an attempt to extract natural gas reserves from the Marcellus shale formation buried two miles below the surface. Initial estimates guessed there could be as much as $3 trillion in natural gas reserves hidden in the Marcellus shale formation stretching under a large portion of Pennsylvania and New York, and portions of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Recently, those estimates have been scaled back just as complaints about the safety of fracking have reached a new high. The residents in Dimock believe nearby fracking wells have caused their private water wells to become contaminated with, among other harmful toxins, methane gas which has escaped the underground wells, contaminated groundwater and eventually their wells.
Some Dimock and other northeast Pennsylvania residents have been forced to find alternative sources of fresh water – even for daily household purposes like bathing, dishes and filling the toilet – because they’ve been forced to cap their home’s well due to too much build-up of methane gas. In some instances, the accumulation of gas is so bad, residents can light their tap water on fire as it comes out of the faucet.
The EPA is supposed to be conducting a full safety review of fracking drilling, a review which is expected to set the course for future regulation of the industry. Currently, fracking drillers can conduct these operations almost completely clear of any rules, specifically one rule which would require drillers to disclose all the chemicals and agents used in the drilling process. Those opposed to fracking drilling believed it is the 60 or so chemicals the industry won’t disclose that’s leading to a rash of reports of drilling-related contamination.
Poor well construction only adds to the danger, allowing those toxins to seep directly into the ground, where it eventually contaminates groundwater supplies.
Leading fracking companies have disputed every finding of the EPA’s recently which links contamination at its exploratory wells to fracking drilling nearby.