Earlier this week, EPA released the final round of results from its tests of drinking water wells in Dimock, PA - where state regulators have concluded that water supplies were contaminated with explosive levels of methane by the drilling activities of Cabot Oil and Gas. In releasing those results, EPA stated that the drinking water supplies of 61 families are safe to drink, basing that determination on the absence of significantly elevated levels of various pollutants, excluding methane.
It is critical to note that EPA was not focused on - and did not make any conclusions with respect to - whether Cabot's practices in fact contaminated the aquifer that supplies these families' wells with dangerous levels of methane. As such, the EPA findings do not exonerate Cabot, or gas drilling and fracking more broadly, of contaminating drinking water in the Dimock case or otherwise.
NRDC has released the following statement in response to EPA's release:
"While EPA says it has not found any pollutants in the water that are toxic to drink – which would certainly be good – it’s worth noting that it is evaluating water safety in a particular context. EPA’s investigation does not include an evaluation of the risk posed by elevated levels of methane – which continue to exist in some homes in Dimock – and which, at extreme levels and if unaddressed, can lead to explosions, as one Dimock resident actually experienced when her well blew up.
The EPA results do nothing to refute the fact that shoddy drilling practices of Cabot Oil & Gas contaminated these families’ drinking water with dangerous levels of explosive methane, as the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection concluded. This alone presents a risk to Dimock residents’ well-being, has had a critical impact on their property values, and is enough to make many people stop drinking from their taps.
Additionally, these results do not alleviate concerns about risks to drinking water supplies nationwide from fracking. With Americans around the country continuing to report water contamination that may be related to fracking, there remain a lot of unanswered questions. We need federal rules on the books to allow us to trace the source of these problems if they arise, and safeguard our drinking water supplies from these risks in the first place."