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Breaking: Hanger Challenges PA DEP to Disclose Drinking Water Contaminants

November 5, 2012

Hanger: Water Contamination Report System “Makes No Sense”

For years, Pennsylvania — some of whom have had their lives turned upside down by shale gas drilling, from blistering skin, nausea, bone pain, headaches, respiratory distress, tremors, and kidney failure to houses that have blown up — have complained bitterly that the PA DEP is not the Department of Environmental Protection, but the Department of Everything Permitted.

Now one of the fracking industry’s cheerleaders, former PA DEP Secretary John Hanger, is challenging the regulatory agency to stop withholding vital information about water contamination from homeowners. In a story published today, Hanger told Energywire

that the agency [PA DEP] needed to immediately revise the practice and be fully transparent with the data.

“The policy as described makes no sense and should be changed immediately. All results for any test should be provided to the homeowners,” he said. “There’s a lot to be lost by not just simply releasing that information and explaining it.”

Last Thursday, PA State Rep. Jesse White charged,

“The Marcellus boom was built on the assumption that the DEP was competent and capable of balancing the positive impacts of the industry with its job of keeping residents safe and secure, but we now know that simply isn’t the case.”

That quote appears today in E&E reporter Ellen Gilmer’s article, “Water contamination report system ‘makes no sense,’ former enviro chief says.” Gilmer lists a few of the substances PA DEP chooses not to disclose to homeowners even when those contaminants are in residents’ drinking water — including lithium, known to be in at least one Dimock resident’s drinking water right now:

Among the contaminants not disclosed to homeowners are titanium, aluminum, silicon, lithium, molybdenum and 11 other metals. One study commissioned by the Marcellus Shale Coalition lists many of these metals as appearing in shale gas water samples, but at very low levels compared to municipal wastewater levels, for example.

Funny how the Marcellus Shale Coalition compares toxic shale gas drilling poisons in our drinking water to wastewater. Don’t know about you, but generally speaking, I don’t drink municipal wastewater, myself.

Press coverage: PA DEP fails to disclose water contamination

Three of the best-written and most complete articles so far about the scandal boiling over at  PA DEP are:

New York Times: “Pennsylvania Report Left Out Data on Poisons in Water Near Gas Site,” by Jon Hurdle. Best-written and most complete reporting so far  November 3rd.

Also excellent: “DEP Employee Says Agency Withholds Water Contamination Information from Residents,” by Susan Phillips on StateImpact, the NPR / WHYY blog about shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania, published November 2nd.

In Protecting Our Waters’ report on the issue last Friday we link to the Post-Gazette coverage by Don Hopey; the original press statement by Rep. Jesse White, and the link where you can find your PA state legislators.

What happens now? Your voice here:

We believe there should be not just a state investigation, but a federal investigation of PA DEP, and urge you to crank up the heat in and on Pennsylvania.

Contact your legislators to demand a complete investigation; to insist that DEP immediately disclose all 16 of the contaminants they’ve withheld from water-drinkers in PA; and further, that they begin protecting our people, our air, water, health and living creatures, rather than protecting the gas industry. A great first step would be firing DEP Secretary Krancer, who has repeatedly made it clear that he sees the health harms experienced by PA residents as acceptable sacrifices, while Krancer believes his mission to protect and promote fracking: “At the end of the day, my job is to get gas done.”

Shale gas drilling should be suspended and a Health Impact Assessment for life-cycle impacts of shale gas drilling in PA must be undertaken. DEP  should not be in the business of assisting the fracking industry in playing Russian roulette with people’s lives.

Worried about taking jobs away? Let’s fight for safe, lasting, union jobs in a sustainable energy economy instead of toxic fracking boom jobs where workers are hurt, sometimes, killed, and silenced in a climate of fear. Climate change is here, it’s killing people, and it’s very expensive. In addition to hurting water, air and health, fracking escalates climate change and makes no economic sense. For a look at economic costs outweighing the much-touted economic benefits of shale gas drilling, see our previous post this morning, “New Economic Study…” and watch this video.

9 Comments
  1. John permalink
    November 5, 2012 1:13 pm

    Looks like one of the former PADEP Secretarys as well as one of the “experts” in the Gas Industry funded “Truthland” movie critical of his former agency.

  2. November 5, 2012 1:14 pm

    What I’d like to know, too, is whether John Hanger had the same policy in place when he was heading DEP? The current DEP officials state that the agency has been doing it like this since way back. Was Hanger’s DEP providing the full contents of the water testing? I’m glad he’s saying what he’s saying now, but have to wonder whether the current DEP has departed from a policy he had in place.

    • November 6, 2012 8:43 am

      The policy that you’re referring to has been in place since the early 1990’s.

    • Claudia Crane permalink
      November 7, 2012 1:39 pm

      I am a nurse. The DEP asking the state lab to report on only 8 of the 24 elements is as if an internist, suspicious that a patient may have an aneursym, asks the radiologist to only rule out the aneursym, and not to report on any other findings.

      We had such a patient in our office recently, who as it turned out, did not have an aneurysm. But the CAT scan did show a new finding: a large tumor on his liver! It is ludicrous to imagine that the internist would ask the radiologist to not report on any other finding, like the tumor found, or that the radiologist would not report the tumor.

  3. November 5, 2012 5:01 pm

    On his blog, Hanger recommends that DEP:
    1. Prospectively change the policy and report, with appropriate explanation, the results for all 24 substances, no matter the reason for the sampling;
    2. Retroactively release all results for past testing if the Department has that information; and
    3. Do another test if the Department no longer has the information and the homeowner wants the results for all 24 substances tested.

    As Hanger has been a regular apologist for the gas industry, my guess is he’d have a ready explanation if there was anything like “Suite Code 942” in his day. let’s ask him

  4. November 6, 2012 6:29 am

    If you’re in the PIttsburgh area on Thurs., Nov. 15 at 11 a.m. Marcellus Protest is holding a rally at the Convention Center. Michael Krancer will be speaking at the frackers’ convention & we’ll also be there to share OUR thoughts. Everyone welcome, questions: info@marcellusprotest.org

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