Flammable tap water--it's a fact, not a myth

The HBO documentary Gasland has gotten a lot of attention, and rightfully so. The film lets viewers see for themselves how natural gas drilling has dramatically changed the lives of ordinary Americans now living with air and water contamination, in some cases destroying their quality of life, their property, sometimes their livelihoods and finances. One scene in the film shows a gentleman in Colorado lighting his tap water on fire, due to methane in the water. The industry disregards this incident.

It's a fact, however, that natural gas operations have contaminated drinking water around the country. One piece of evidence is methane in drinking water, and if methane has made its way into drinking water sources, there may be additional contaminants that are much more dangerous to human health. Methane in water caused by drilling operations has been documented in Ohio, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Oil and Gas Management has drafted a report on "Stray Natural Gas Migration Associated with Oil and Gas Wells." This paper documents cases in two dozen communities where new or operating oil or gas wells have led to methane migrating into drinking water wells and streams, affecting many Pennsylvania families. Some cases are still under investigation. And there are over three dozen more cases where the water contamation is linked to old, abandoned wells. Of course, all the new wells currently being drilled will one day be old and abandoned, too, so we should not discount the contamination risk from these wells.