EPA Releases Report on Water Contamination By Fracking, As GA Pushes Fee Bills

It must take a lot of balls to be a Republican leader – to be Caesar, with all eyes watching your every step, ready to pounce.

Grover Norquist, for instance, is frothing at the mouth over Gov. Corbett’s readiness to sign a natural gas impact fee bill into law, accusing Corbett of breaking a no-tax pledge by instituting a fee on gas wells.

Breathing down the other side of his neck, Corbett’s lobby, the natural gas industry, wants one of the versions of the House or Senate bills to be passed already. Those bills will streamline regulations throughout the state, and as an added bonus, give Pennsylvania’s Attorney General (currently a Corbett appointee) wider powers to strike down local noise pollution, traffic, and zoning ordinances – including those concerning wells, pipelines, compressor stations and processing facilities.

Natural gas companies will pay less per well here than they’re required to in Texas, mere scraps to executives who stand before the gold and bejeweled gates of El Dorado if Corbett gets Pennsylvania to start buying natural gas in earnest. Nothing is safe; his advisory commission wants to convert turnpike gas stations, the public transportation system, school buses, the works, to natural gas. Eventually.

Caesar had to listen to the people, though, and so does the government, starting with the EPA, which has been investigating complaints of water contamination near natural gas drilling sites. The agency has released the draft results of a study on water quality in Pavilion, Wyoming – timely, since it’s being sued by the Attorney General of New York, along with City Council and a number of conservation groups, over failure to conduct an impact assessment on natural gas drilling before going forward on draft rules to open the Delaware River basin to development.

The report results aren’t pretty. Wading through a mess of chemical terms and testing jargon, we get to the nitty gritty: “detections of high concentrations of benzenes, xylenes, gasoline range organics, diesel range organics and … hydrocarbons in ground water samples from … wells near pits indicates that (frack) pits are a source of shallow ground water contamination,” the report says.

At some wells the researchers found “water near-saturated in methane” and in deep water wells, they also found chemicals used during the fracking process: gasoline, diesel fuel, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), naphthalenes, isopropanol, and a whole slew of other things that you’d rather not drink.

The report continues: “Detections of organic chemicals are more numerous and exhibit higher concentrations in the deeper of the two monitoring wells … (which) along with trends in methane, potassium, chloride, and pH, suggest a deep source of contamination.”

Their observations about the crazy chemical reactions in the field led them to suggest that upward migration of chemicals from deep underground is the culprit.

They also found that the reports companies filed detailing jobs listed chemicals as a class or as “proprietary,” “rendering identification of constituents impossible.”

The EPA has started conducting a larger-scale study, and results will be released sometime in 2014. As for now the clock is running down on this session of the state legislature, so we may not see the fee bills move until the new year. Stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

Follow PW

Got a news tip?

If you see something interesting, odd, funny or, of course, illegal, let us know by emailing tips@philadelphiaweekly.com