Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA]
ended an investigationinto the potential contamination of water near natural gas wells in the town of Dimock, Penn. and determined the water was safe.
Now, the Scranton Times-Tribune is calling on the EPA to reopen the investigation.
An undated PowerPoint presentation uncovered by the LA Times’ Neela Banerjee last week shows that some EPA staff maintained concerns that aquifers near Dimock were contaminated by methane.
“Methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality,” the report said.
DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of the PowerPoint [PPT], which focuses on the possibility of methane leaks. The problem? The Times-Tribune says the EPA’s initial investigation did not test for that compound.
The discrepancy has rankled the paper’s editorial board:
…the EPA PowerPoint presentation identified five water wells where the chemical composition of the methane was the same as that of the gas extracted from deep underground. And a separate Duke University study also showed that the chemical signature of methane in some water wells was the same as that of the deep methane.
The PowerPoint presentation is not a definitive contradiction of EPA’s decision. But it does raise questions that the EPA is in business to answer. It should return to Dimock and use all of the technology at its disposal to do just that.
An EPA representative told the LA Times’ Banerjee that the presentation represented the preliminary views of a single employee, and that the levels of contaminants they ultimately found did not warrant further action.
Fred Baldassare, a geologist and former official at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection who worked on Pennsylvania’s own study of Dimock, told Banerjee he disagreed with the presentation’s assertion that some wells contained methane:
Now a consultant for industry and homeowners, Baldassare said there was not enough information about the composition of the methane in the wells to draw conclusions about the origin. “It’s dangerous and inappropriate to interpret this data in a vacuum,” he said.
Gas driller Cabot has maintains that the methane in the waters was naturally occurring. The area is known for having shallow methane pits.
We visited Dimock and surrounding Susquehanna County earlier this year, and found a husband and wife with a gas well in their backyards whose water was clean, but also some (possibly) major water contamination in other nearby homes that had gas wells all around them.
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