EPA: Clean water so far in Dimock

BY LAURA LEGERE

Times-Shamrock Writer

Federal environmental regulators said Friday that they are “not drawing any conclusions” about whether the first 11 Dimock Twp. water test results they described Thursday are representative of the 61 water wells sampled in the town.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a statement Thursday saying that results from the first 11 homes sampled “did not show levels of contamination that could present a health concern,” but that it will perform additional sampling at three homes currently receiving replacement water and two homes where arsenic was detected.

The first test results represent about a sixth of the data collected by the EPA between Jan. 23 and Feb. 15 during sampling in an area of Dimock where the agency is investigating the potential impact of nearby natural gas drilling on water supplies.

EPA spokesman Roy Seneca said Friday that the results released so far represent only the sampling performed during the week of Jan. 23.

“EPA is not drawing any conclusions at this time” about the entirety of the Dimock sampling, he said.

Of the seven contaminants detected in past water tests and highlighted in a January “action memo” outlining the agency’s rationale for its investigation in Dimock, barium, manganese and sodium were detected at low levels in some of the first 11 samples, and arsenic was found at levels that meet drinking water standards in two samples, he said. Phenol, glycol compounds and the chemical commonly called DEHP were not identified in the first 11 samples.

The agency’s public statement Thursday was welcomed by the natural gas industry as evidence that its operations have not harmed Dimock water supplies while it was challenged by industry critics who called for the EPA to release the 11 test results publicly.

“We are deeply troubled that EPA Region 3 has allowed its investigation to be employed in the service of the gas industry spin machine before testing is even complete,” said Claire Sandberg, executive director of Water Defense, an organization she co-founded with actor Mark Ruffalo.

The EPA is planning to release further test results to Dimock homeowners on a weekly basis in the order in which the homes were sampled, Seneca said. The agency has also identified seven more homes in the target area – or a total of 68 – where it is working to offer and schedule sampling.