Monday, October 15, 2012

PA DEP Unwisely Changes Policy On Foul Water Notifications

The credibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's water testing is a precious, fragile commodity. That is especially true in disputes about possible impacts of gas drilling on water supplies.

Performed by career civil servants in the DEP laboratory in Harrisburg, water test results in the last 5 years have annoyed drilling companies, homeowners, and environmental organizations.  All sides have been made unhappy by one test result or another and have sometimes fallen prey to the temptation of attacking the messenger.  And that alone is compelling proof that the numbers in the tests are honest.

With that as background, DEP's change of policy on handling the notification of water test results that is described in this article is not wise:  Indeed,  the change described by Don Hopey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette may erode public confidence in the integrity of the test results and gas drilling oversight, and that would be a loss for homeowners, the gas industry, and environmental advocates.

When things are not broken, it is indeed much better to resist fixing them.


  1. Time for DEP to change its name! Or accept the title DEPARTMENT of ENERGY PROMOTION...what a sad state of affairs. Krancer will decide if the water pollution/contamination is worth investigation or has merit? Who will we turn to? Might as well get rid of the field staff.

  2. Mr. Hanger-
    The DEP's investigation of the contamination of my water well and those of several of my neighbors is what prompted this action by Range Resources. When I spoke to Mr. Hopey for the article linked above I didn't realize that what I'd received a month or so before was a "letter of investigation" (I believe that's the term). While the DEP's claim that the policy change had not stopped, held up, or altered any contaminated water determination letters may have been true at the time of the article, it didn't stick for long. My neighbors told me they received their letters of determination about two months after receiving their letters of investigation, and that the letters of determination listed the Harmon Lewis Well as the source of the contamination. More than eight months passed--9/11/12 to 4/22/13--before my letter of determination arrived; that letter says "The source of the methane is currently unknown and remains under investigation by the department."
    BTW, we're just a couple of miles down the valley, and downstream on Sugar Run, from the XTO spill that AG Kane is planning to prosecute. There are far fewer small fish, and I've seen only a couple of trout over the past two years, despite XTO's claim that "There was no lasting environmental impact and the site has been fully remediated in according with DEP."