Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dimock Water Testing Triple Header On Tap: Shale Wars Continue

Since no one trusts anyone in the Dimock case, just about everyone wants to do their own testing of well water, and some families are just saying no to water testing, according to Laura Legere of the Scranton Times.  See

The EPA, DEP, Cabot Oil and Gas all seem to be taking samples and doing there own testing. It is a water testing triple header.

Perhaps this is a good thing in these polarized times.  Possibly the industry will believe the Cabot results, and the anti-drilling groups will believe the EPA results.   Others may believe the DEP results.  That may add up to everyone accepting the test results.

Of course, if not already a three ring circus, this multiple testing at the same time will be a circus, if the results differ.

Not surprisingly to me, Legere reports that a "significant" number of the 61 families that EPA had identified for further testing are refusing the offer.  The community in Dimock area is divided, with bitter opponents of drilling and many families supportive of gas drilling, though those families do not get much media coverage.

Of course a huge amount of water testing and action is water under the bridge in the Dimock case. Here is a brief recap.

DEP has done an extensive investigation that included significant gas testing.  DEP found that at 18 water wells had been impacted by gas migrating as a result of poor gas drilling.  DEP also found that there was no contamination of the aquifer or water wells by hydraulic fracturing.  A subsequent Duke University study confirmed this point.

Based on its findings, DEP issued Cabot cumulative fines in excess of $1.3 million.  DEP  required the plugging of several gas wells and the repair of other gas wells to remove gas from water wells.  The plugging and repair of gas wells cost Cabot tens of millions of dollars of direct expense and lost revenues.

DEP required Cabot to establish individual escrow accounts totaling $4.1 million and that averaged more than $200,000 each for the 18 families where DEP found gas migration had polluted their water wells.  Seven of the 18 families reportedly took the escrow account payments, while 11 have not.

By December 2010, gas had been reduced to safe levels in as many as 14 of the water wells. But more testing was needed to confirm the improvement in those wells.

We are certainly going to get more testing.


  1. Concerned ScientistJanuary 26, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    The EPA has run amok in Dimock. They have blundered into a situation that they don't really understand or are intentionally causing problems. In December they told everyone in Dimock that their water was safe to drink. Then they came back last week and said that four houses should have water brought in at great expense to the government (50,000 per house). They implicated drilling in contamination of three wells that had elevated sodium and/or manganese and one that was elevated in arsenic. Of course, many wells in PA have elevated levels of these elements and it doesn't have a thing to do with drilling. The center for rural PA did massive water testing and showed this to be the case. Did the EPA not read this study? Do they not have any idea what it is that they are talking about? Sodium and manganese aren't even regulated. Arsenic isn't part of any drilling or fracking fluid. Of course this did not stop some unscrupulous reporters from attributing these elevated readings to fracking.

    The local EPA official who requested the water has kicked up a huge storm here - perhaps intentionally perhaps not. It is sure playing into the hands of the anti-shale gas people.

  2. What's not playing into the hands of the anti-shale people is the truth. The EPA is full of what drops out of the back end of a horse when they say that elevated manganese and arsenic COULD have something to do with fracing. Manganese and arsenic are NOT typically used in fracing fluids, and they were NOT used on the wells in Dimock. And slightly elevated sodium levels are a joke too. The anti's up there were going on about glycols being found.. the 4 houses being delivered water tested negative for glycols. EPA says they are so trace it's not an issue. Does anyone remember the Crystal Stroud situation (I'm sure Mr. Hanger does). Claiming that fracing had contaminated her water with barium... and the well on her property hadn't even been fraced yet! DEP investigated and found it to be naturally occurring.

    Recent reports have put the number of water wells in PA that don't meet SDWA standards is at about 40%. Unless the EPA plans to give them all water too, then they need to get the heck out of Dimock and grossly misrepresenting the situation.

    1. Concerned ScientistJanuary 26, 2012 at 3:03 PM

      Right On Mike. This was my concern when the EPA got involved - that they would come in, make inaccurate assumptions based on what they read in the newspaper, act before they really understood the situation and then dig in and try to save face. Why oh why don't they just ask the local regulators and defer to them until they have taken the time to do their homework? There is so much misinformation out there already and right now the EPA is making it worse not better.

  3. Having had my water tested by Cabot and Dep, I welcome testing by EPA...I have a report in front of me that shows glycols, DEHP,2-methoxyethanol and yes arsenic, manganese, sodium...I also have a report in front of me that has very high levels of methane STILL in residents home- I believe Secretary Hanger's staff proved that to be Cabot's fault. Cabot continues to drill defective wells-see Lenox, PA. We know of 33 families that Cabot was delivering water idea of how many others. If EPA shows my water safe to drink, now, I will be relieved. I also will have one heck of a predrill for when DEP allows Cabot to come back here and drill and frack..again.

  4. Concerned ScientistJanuary 27, 2012 at 8:14 AM


    The sodium, manganese and arsenic are the reasons those people are getting water shipped to them. Those are almost certainly naturally occurring as they also occur in many other people's wells in NEPA, far from drilling activity and they are not typically part of the drilling fluids.

    The other chemicals are probably not from drilling either (and they are definitely not from fracking) but regardless are below the levels required by the safe drinking water standards set by the EPA. That is why that person is not having water shipped to them. Have a look at this chart:

    It is OK by the EPA standards to drink water that has:

    arsenic, asbestos, cyanide, mercury, lead, benzene, dichlorobenzene, and many other scary sounding chemicals if they are present in concentrations below the safe drinking water standards. It's not presence/absence it's concentration that matters. People drink water with these chemicals in it every day and it doesn't hurt them.

    The methane could be naturally occurring or from faulty well construction. But it is not from fracking.

    The irony of all of this is that PA drinking water quality will improve as a result of Marcellus activity because people are going to learn that their well water is not up to code prior to drilling and many will take action to improve the water they are drinking now. And they will have money to pay for that through the royalty checks.

  5. we hope DRILLING will improve..we hope DEP will monitor the drilling..expecially a company who has proven negligent track record..Just ask Sec. Hanger..We saw and smelled the foamy water..we saw the spills, the torn pit liners and the slick roads with foam filled ditched....I saw the methane reports from this November..I watched the man with three small children drawing foul brown water from his well...I could go on and on. I will not stand down from the truth. I will not participate in lies so the gas company can continue to recklessly endanger my fellow citizens.