Skip to content

Protecting Our Waters Goes to Dimock: What’s In Their “Safe” Water?

December 6, 2011
Today Protecting Our Waters heads to Dimock for a press conference, rally and water delivery for affected families there, joining with the people of Dimock along with allies including Frack Action, Water Defense, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project. Details about the action are here. Why, when the EPA claims there is “no immediate threat” to the people of Dimock from drinking their water, are we so concerned about their safety and committed to delivering clean, safe water to them? The lawyer representing several families lays out the concerns pretty well below.  A key excerpt:
“Chronic, low-level, exposure to fracking chemicals is too great a medical risk to assume. Our clients are not lab rats in an experiment. As you are aware, the following chemicals have been recently detected in the Dimock/Carter Road Area raw water: naphthalene, phenanthrene, butyl benzyl phthalate, 1-methylnapthalene, 2-methylnapthalene, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, 2-methoxyethanol, methylene blue active substances, gas range organics, acetone and ammonia (distilled). Although not presently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and thus no MCLs exists, these chemicals are not safe for ingestion, in either the short or long term.”
Below is the full text of the letter:
TATE J. KUNKLE
Associate – New York Office
TKUNKLE@NAPOLIBERN.COM
December 2, 2011
VIA E-MAIL & FIRST CLASS MAIL
Ms. Trish Taylor, Community Involvement Coordinator
Hazardous Site Cleanup Division
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Re: Carter Road Residents, Dimock Township, PA

Dear Ms. Taylor:

We are in possession of an extremely disconcerting email sent to the Dimock residents this morning, many of whom we represent. The email advises that a preliminary review of the PADEP data indicates that the contaminants in the groundwater do not present an immediate health threat to those who use it for household purposes. Presumably, this is based on comparisons with the maximum contaminant level (“MCL”) of some constituents present in the water. We strongly disagree that the well water does not present an immediate health threat to the Dimock residents and hope this letter aids the United State Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) as it continues its review.

First, be advised that a major aspect to the determination by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and thePennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (“PADEP”) that Dimock homeowners’ water is safe to drink derives from sampling they provided to a laboratory they also retained to analyze two (2) sample sets for certain parameters, including metals. However, the results from that laboratory, Test America, are at best misleading and inapposite to the issue of groundwater safety given the instructions by Cabot to exclude most contaminants from analysis. Indeed, many of the samples were analyzed after being filtered through a 0.45 micron filter. As you are probably aware, this filter size is capable of removing very fine to colloidal sized particles. This filtration procedure was doubtlessly done by the laboratory at the request of Cabot to artificially lower the contamination concentrations and detection. By filtering the water samples, much of the total metals concentrations were removed, leaving behind what the lab sheets refer to as “dissolved” concentrations, which fall below MCL levels. Even after filtering some concentrations still exceed the MCLs and were not taken into account when the USEPA advised the water would not pose an immediate health threat.

As an example, here is the following recent Cabot data that you are in possession of: [data deleted from this post]

Note that even after filtration, wells R-1, R-2, and TC-1 still failed to meet SMCL standards for Mn. In addition, the Sautner well water, unfiltered, detected 10 ug/l of lead. The federal MCL for lead is zero (0) micrograms per liter; in Pennsylvania the MCL for lead is 5 ug/l. Prior to filtering, the Sautner well’s iron level exceeded the MCL standards by 16.7 times on September 1, 2011. Note that the Sautner residence had no sediment filters prior to Cabot conducting its natural gas extraction operations.

The data supplied by Cabot and presumably reviewed by the USEPA also shows violations relative to pH for sample locations D-1, H-1, and KDE-1. This is also true of the Scott Ely well, where numerous pH values have been recorded in excess of pH 9 by the PADEP indicating that something is very wrong with the groundwater in Dimock, PA. This is further bolstered by the color of Scott Ely’s groundwater that far exceeds the SMCL for color of 15 color units. Preliminary lab data from a November 22, 2011 sampling of Scott Ely’s well also indicates the presence of low level hexanes, octanes, and decanes. This data will be forward to the USEPA shortly.

Additional recent sampling with results exceeding the MCL includes: [data deleted from this post]

As you are well aware, MCLs for groundwater/drinking water are meant to be applied to the water as it is being used by homeowners. Thus, if a homeowner did not filter their water, the MCLs should be applied to exactly what the homeowner used as their potable water supply. If a homeowner had some kind of filter in use prior to gas drilling activities, then the standards should apply to that water after the same filtration. No Dimock residents whom we represent who may have filtered their water prior to gas drilling activities did so with a 0.45 micron filter. Such a small filter size would probably readily clog. In the case of Scott Ely’s now- turbid water, it is not conceivable that any particulate filter could filter out sediment and not clog the system in very short order. Thus, MCLs applied in Dimock should not be relative to finely filtered water. Instead, MCLs should be applied to homeowners’ water as it formerly came directly from their wells, to their taps and ready for ingestion.

Chronic, low-level, exposure to fracking chemicals is too great a medical risk to assume. Our clients are not lab rats in an experiment. As you are aware, the following chemicals have been recently detected in the Dimock/Carter Road Area raw water: naphthalene, phenanthrene, butyl benzyl phthalate, 1-methylnapthalene, 2-methylnapthalene, ethylene glycol, diethylene glycol, triethylene glycol, 2-methoxyethanol, methylene blue active substances, gas range organics, acetone and ammonia (distilled). Although not presently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and thus no MCLs exists, these chemicals are not safe for ingestion, in either the short or long term.

Contrary to the statement this morning, we do not feel it is wise for homeowners to potentially expose themselves to untested chemicals, even if a few that have been tested for appear to temporarily pass MCL standards. In light of the data and our analysis we request you retract the statement that the water is safe for consumption until a thorough review can be conducted and order that water deliveries be continued until such time as a water line is installed from a safe, potable source.

We appreciate the USEPA’s assistance in this matter and hope the continued review supports a cautious approach bearing in mind that its recommendation may ultimately result in the long-term ingestion of this contamination by the Carter Road residents. Should you have any questions or wish to discuss this issue further, please feel free to contact me at (212) 267-3700.

Very truly yours,
Tate J. Kunkle, Esq.

BACKGROUND:  An article on the EPA results in the Times-Tribune is here
And an old but good article by Abrahm Lustgarten, “Industry and EPA Collaborate to Hide the Truth about How Natural Gas Drilling is Threatening Drinking Water,” very detailed and relevant, is here.
For background about Dimock use the search engine of this blog and follow the links; Craig and Julie Sautner’s story is also in the “press” section of http://www.shalegasoutrage.org

5 Comments
  1. The_White_Rabbit permalink
    December 8, 2011 3:00 pm

    It seems like information indicates that Cabot requested the samples to be filtered PRIOR to any analysis. Bottom line is this is not conventional to do with drinking water samples and makes it totally infeasible to compare with any risk values. Cabot dropped the balls if this is correct.

    § 250.10. Measurement of regulated substances in media.
    (a) For measuring regulated substances in soil and sediments, analyses shall be performed on a dry weight basis.
    (b) For metals in soil, analyses shall be performed on total metals, except for hexavalent and trivalent chromium, which analyses shall be performed individually.
    (c) For groundwater, samples for metals analysis shall be field filtered and field acidified in accordance with the most current version of the Groundwater Monitoring Guidance Manual, Department of Environmental Protection, 3610-BK-DEP1973.
    (d) For groundwater where monitoring is being performed at a drinking water well, samples for metals analysis shall be field acidified and unfiltered in accordance with the most current version of Groundwater Monitoring Guidance Manual, Department of Environmental Protection, 3610-BK-DEP1973.
    (e) For surface water, samples for metals analysis shall be field acidified in accordance with approved EPA analytical methods in § 16.102 (relating to approved EPA analytical methods and detection limits).
    (f) For air, samples and analyses shall be performed in accordance with Chapters 131 and 139 (relating to ambient air quality standards; and sampling and testing).

Trackbacks

  1. National News: Fracking Caused Drinking Water Contamination, EPA Confirms « Protecting Our Waters
  2. Expert: “Hydrofracking sure to contaminate water” « Protecting Our Waters
  3. Philly: Friday Morning Rally & Press Conference for Clean Water in Dimock « Protecting Our Waters
  4. EPA Will Deliver Clean Safe Water to Dimock! « Protecting Our Waters

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: