Monday, May 20, 2013

Key Fact: 161 Water Wells Impacted By Gas Drilling In PA From 2008-2012

Laura Legere is a good reporter.  Her Sunday, May 19th article is full of important facts.

Legere is also a persistent reporter, with good lawyers backing her up.  Legere requested access to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection drilling investigative determination letters in 2011, but the Corbett Administration denied the Right To Know Request. 

The Pennsylvania courts ruled that the Corbett Administration stonewalling was a violation of the public's right to know.  Any wonder the public has lost total confidence in the Corbett Administration's regulation of the gas industry?

After reviewing the material won in court, Legere writes that 161 water supplies in Pennsylvania have been impacted by gas drilling from 2008 to 2012 and that 103 water supplies were damaged from 2010 to 2012.  The number of cases that involved damaged water supplies--83 cases--is less than the total number of water wells affected. DEP provided documentation of gas drilling impacting water supplies going back to 1987.

The impacts include loss of water, methane contamination, sediment, and frack water spills from the surface.  Methane migration is the leading cause of damage, impacting 90 water water wells.

Some cases of damage or water loss were temporary.  In other cases, new water wells were drilled or major payments were made by gas drilling companies to impacted property owners.

Over the last 5 years, DEP has confirmed an annual average of about 16 cases of gas drilling impacting 32 water wells in Pennsylvania.  Interestingly, DEP found considerably more cases of gas drilling impacting water wells in 2008 and 2009, when many fewer wells were drilled, than in 2011 and 2012. 

What explains the decline in confirmed cases of gas drilling impacting water wells, even as the number of gas wells increased? Probably both the Corbett Administration taking office in January 2011 and making clear that it wanted enforcement of gas drilling regulations changed as well as improvement by some companies in their drilling practices.

Water, air, and other challenges demonstrate that more regulatory staff and stronger oversight is needed.  Increasing the DEP gas drilling oversight staff by 50% is overdue and so is naming a Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.


  1. I have a lot of problems with DEP but something that makes me really sick is their lack of accurate and careful record keeping and a filing system that is accessible! Must be they know they will not have to present info in a court of law because the poor landowner with contaminated water will tire of their treatment and obstacles to surmount in their pursuit of justice. They sure are quick to dismiss any other info that does not suit their agenda. I truly hope that DEP does have their day in court and that they are the defendents!!!!

  2. John, you're invited.

    An Industrial Park in My Backyard: Similarities Between Coal Mining & Fracking
    The natural gas industry is spending millions of dollars on advertising touting the jobs and economic stimulus that their product will bring to America. What they don’t tell you are the widespread health and environmental issues that come with it. You need to know both sides of the issue to make informed decisions.
    I’m Scott Cannon, a professional video producer, and I’ve been documenting these issues for 3 years in a video series called “The Marcellus Shale Reality Tour”. My concern for the decline in the quality of life in the Wyoming Valley led me on this journey of discovery. I’ve lived in the Valley all my life and have had relatives who worked in the mines that suffered from black lung complications. I drive by land scarring and orange mine drainage left by mining on a daily basis. I never thought that gas drilling or the “fracking” process would or could take off in Pennsylvania, because we know firsthand the problems that coal mining has left us today. Although there is no gas drilling in our county, we are right between the drilling and the Transco Pipeline, a major gas distribution artery. Our biggest threat here is the gas infrastructure that is invading our residential and agricultural areas.
    My presentation consists of a PowerPoint presentation covering the basics of “Fracking” and how it relates to North Eastern Pennsylvania, and its similarities to coal mining. I touch upon many topics including how I got interested in this process, and how our state government is promoting the process. Then, I’ll show a short video about a group of families dealing with a natural gas nightmare just 10 miles north of Wilkes-Barre, followed by a Q & A session.
    Free to the Public
    Thursday, May 30, 7:30 pm at the Plymouth Historical Society
    115 Gaylord Ave, Plymouth, PA
    Call 570-719-9986 for more information

  3. I've been seeing more and more articles about this recently. Many comment saying whether or not it's actually possible. Clearly it is. Otherwise we wouldn't be finding multiple incidents of water contamination where this occurs. What's worse though is that this keeps occurring in the first place and doesn't seem like it's being handled properly at all. I just hope it all gets resolved. Thanks for the read!