The state of Pennsylvania has made its first admission that oil and gas drilling operations in the state have been contaminating private drinking wells for years. The state made public 243 cases of contamination in 22 counties which had remained unreported since 2008–the first year of the Marcellus shale play boom.
“This is something that should have been made public a long time ago,” said the Pennsylvania Sierra Club chapter member, Thomas Au.
The release of information came after years of requests by news agencies such as the AP under the Freedom of Information Act
and by groups filing lawsuits.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection posted details about the 243 cases online Thursday. The agency said that it had conducted a “thorough review” of its paper files.
The DEP did not immediately issue a statement with the information release.
The earliest cases released by the DEP were from 2008–six years ago. Cases from the current year were also released.
Problems detailed included methane gas contamination, wastewater spills and other pollutants, and dry or undrinkable wells.
Although some of the problems were reported to have been temporary, landowners names were redacted, so information about whether the problems were resolved was not available.
Earlier this year, the state admitted that it had received hundreds of complaints regarding fracking-related water issues in 2012 and 2013, but had not released details.
Last month, the state’s auditor general Eugene DePasquale, reported that the DEP’s system of handling complaints was “woefully inadequate.” The auditor general said that the DEP could not even determine whether all complaints had been entered into a reporting system. DePasqualel made 29 recommendations for improvement.
DePasquale said at the time that the state’s sudden, extremely profitable Marcellus boom had “caught the Department of Environmental Protection unprepared to effectively administer laws and regulations to protect drinking water and unable to efficiently respond to citizen complaints.”
Pennsylvania is currently six years into a natural gas boom. The Marcellus Shale play lies under West Virginia, New York and Ohio, in addition to Pennsylvania. The boom took off in 2008 and has seen the Marcellus become the most productive natural gas field in the US. More than 6,000 shale gas wells have been drilled in the Marcellus, generating billions of dollars in revenue.
By Sid Douglas