Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Updated: Water Testing Commences/Results Likely of Water Safe

Pennsylvania American Water Company, one of America's best water companies, announced that it will begin testing water for the pollutants the reporter for the NYT highlights in the February 27th article.  Thank you Pennsylvania American Water Company which operates 5 water plants in the Pittsburgh region 

PAWC spokesman Terry M. Maenza is quoted in today's Philadelphia Inquirer ( as saying that PAWC will do "a battery of radiological tests during the next few weeks."

Mr. Maenza goes on to say: "We expect that there will be no cause for concern."  Of course you have to read about this information in the Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers but not from the NYT.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority will also test.  Thank you to the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority as well.

If the results come back that the water is unsafe for radium or the pollutants identified by the NYT, I will be the first to urge that the new rule enacted in August 2010 and used in permits since 2009 was not tough enough and must be still further strengthened.  The August 2010 rule was supported by Pennsylvania's drinking water companies and the Philadelphia Water Department and opposed by other business interests that argued it was too expensive and strict.  Yet, if the results show that the water does not meet safety standards, the new August 2010 rule will have been proven to be inadequate.

If, however, the results come back that the water meets safety standards, then Pennsylvanians can have their peace of mind restored.  They will also have had a strong lesson about the reliability of the NYT that wrote this piece, printed it on Sunday, the night of the Academy Awards, when Gasland added to the sizzle of the night.  The NYT also promoted this piece on its website next to material about a celebrity anti-drilling activist.

In the event that the results are that the water is safe, I will urge that a new reporter be assigned to write a piece that is at least as long (over 3,800 words in main article plus document readers in addition) that tells the nation that Pennsylvania's water is safe, and that Pennsylvania has the strongest gas drilling oversight in the nation. 

Let me tell the NYT now the following:  I would be glad to be interviewed no matter the results.  I can be reached through this blog or other well known contact information. 

But I would request that any quotations attributed to me in the story written about the results come from an actual interview of me by a new, credible NYT reporter and not to repeat the practice of putting words in my mouth taken from my thousands of past interviews with other reporters at other times in other places and contexts.  Hopefully that is a small request.


  1. An excellent, level headed response. Let the testing prove the issue one way or the other and then act accordingly. This is in the public interest and a well-reasoned response.

  2. your responses seem to gloss over the sick facts that toxic waste was sold to be used as road salt on the roads of Pennsylvania... the officials who made that decision left govt and now work in the gas industry.... the actions and inactions of Pennsylvania officials is pathetic and criminal in my opinion and should be held accountable for their disservice to their constituents.

  3. The policy and rule in Pennsylvania is to ban and prohibit the use of marcellus product in the manner stated above. Indeed the form that municipalities must complete in order to spread salt has a specific prohibition for this practice. The rule is strong. It must be enforced. I don't know the details of the specific event described in the NYT about road salt. I very much doubt that the NYT has described in fully. But the practice is not allowed and the forms the municipalites must complete say it is not allowed. The NYT of course did not report about that, did it?

  4. We know radioactive material is harmful. We know it bio accumulates. We know it moves through the environment in many interconnected and unpredictable ways.

    Know we know that PA regulations either weren't strict enough or weren't enforced, and this stuff has been spread on roads, spilled on our soils, and has been diluted at plants and has entered our waterways.

    Are concentrations downstream high enough during the next few weeks to be detectable at the intake valve downstream? If they are, that means it's a problem for sure. If they aren't, it doesn't mean every stream in PA is safe.

    One reason we have protective environmental laws like SDWA and CERCLA is so that we don't have to do comprehensive retroactive testing to prove that exposure occurred--after the fact, after the substances have already dispersed, and costs of remediation are astronomical if the process is not actually impossible.

    These laws are supposed to prevent known bad practices and likely harmful exposures--before the long-term consequences happen.

    Yet the industry holds major exemptions from federal and state environmental laws.

    Reports about high levels of radioactivity in Marcellus wastes were old news in 2009, at the same time the industry was saying it wasn't a problem. They know exactly what the problems are, especially with shales.

    I believe the Society of Petroleum Engineers did a study within in the last decade about whether they could follow regulations for NORM. Their conclusion was that it would not be economic for some oil and gas operations.

    I'm guessing that is why you, even when you were head of a state environmental agency, where neither aware of nor actively talking about creating or enforcing NORM standards.

    If other industries can operate economically under these laws, fossil fuel extractors should too. And if we can't get methane without creating known public health risks, maybe the costs of fossil fuel production (solid, liquid, or gas) are just too high.

    Please don't lose sight of the big picture here.

  5. Actually, I had seen an article a couple of months ago about a company, (I believe it was Aquatech), that had come up with some kind of frac water treatment process that would produce salt to be used on roads.

    Yes, here is a link about it:

    My question here regards the radioactivity as well as the various toxic chemicals that are used in frac'ing. Is it truly possible to remove the radioactivity and ALL of the chemicals from frac water to end up with road salt that is nothing but NaCl?

    Thank you.