EPA: Dimock tests OK
BY LAURA LEGERE
The final round of test results from federal regulators’ investigation of Dimock Twp. water supplies did not give the Environmental Protection Agency reason to “take further action,” the agency said in a statement Friday.
One of the 12 water wells contained an elevated amount of methane, and EPA informed the resident, state regulators and county emergency officials about the finding, the agency said.
The EPA has published data from 59 of the 61 water wells it sampled in January and February as part of an investigation into the potential impact of nearby natural gas drilling on water supplies in theSusquehannaCountytown.
The test results for two water wells were not posted publicly because the EPA has not been able to contact the residents to share the results, EPA spokesman Roy Seneca said.
On Friday and with each of three earlier rounds of sample releases, the agency said the results gave it no cause for either “immediate” or “further” action. In statements accompanying the first 31 results, it said the sampled water did not pose a health concern.
One well in the previous set of samples contained arsenic at nine times the safe drinking water limit and did pose a health threat, the agency said, but a resident refused offers of replacement water.
Elevated levels of methane, barium, arsenic and sodium were detected in other wells, but the agency said they were either successfully treated or did not pose a health concern. Twenty of the wells had methane above the state’s reporting threshold, and five of those were at or above the EPA’s “trigger level” or the point when dissolved methane begins to escape into the atmosphere.
The agency has said it has not done any detailed review to determine the cause of any contaminants.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., the drilling company most active in the township, said it is “pleased that EPA has now reached the same conclusion of Cabot and state and local authorities resulting from the collection of more than 10,000 pages of hard data – that the water in Dimock meets all regulatory standards.”
Natural gas industry critics and supporters of Dimock families who contend the water is contaminated called the EPA’s interpretation of the results misleading.
Ronald Bishop, Ph.D., a chemistry lecturer at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, said detections of methane, oil and grease and 2-methoxyethanol, as well as elevated levels of sodium, arsenic, barium, lithium and manganese, “suggest that many of these homeowners’ water wells are significantly contaminated with a variety of pollutants in concentrations which are of concern to public health professionals.”
The EPA began testing water wells in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock after the agency’s review of past tests by the state and other groups raised concerns about contamination.
The rural township has been a key battleground in the debate over the safety of natural gas drilling since 2009, when state officials determined faulty Cabot gas wells allowed methane to seep into Dimock water supplies – a finding Cabot and its supporters dispute.
Mr. Seneca said Friday that the EPA will take additional samples at four wells “where previous Cabot and state data showed levels of contaminants that pose a health concern but where EPA’s initial round of sampling data did not detect levels that would require action.” The agency is taking that step to “provide certainty to residents and ensure a thorough and accurate analysis,” he said.
The EPA is also contacting three homeowners who expressed interest in having their water evaluated but have not yet scheduled a time for sampling.
Once all of the sampling is completed, the agency plans to do a “comprehensive review” of all of the test results “to determine if there are any trends or patterns in the data as it relates to home well water quality,” Mr. Seneca said.
Timeline of Investigation
*Jan. 20: The EPA begins testing Dimock water.
*March 15: EPA releases first set of data; no health concerns.
*April 6: EPA releases second set of data; no reason to take further action.
*April 19: EPA releases third set of data; still no reason to take further action.