Environmental groups call for water pollution disclosure
HARRISBURG - Citing findings in a recent series of Times-Tribune investigative reports, a coalition of environmental groups called on Gov. Tom Corbett on Tuesday to speak publicly about the extent of water contamination from natural gas development in Pennsylvania.
They also called on the governor to nominate an independent-minded individual to fill a two-months-old vacancy in the job of secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The Times-Tribune uncovered documentation of 161 cases of contamination of private water supplies, considerably more than the 25 cases acknowledged by former DEP Secretary Michael Krancer shortly before he resigned last April, said Tracy Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper Network. "We demand the truth come out," she said. "Is it Krancer's 25, is it 161 or is it much, much more?" she asked.
Corbett must do more to protect water supplies and help families that are left with polluted water supplies, said Myron Arnowitt of Clean Water Action.
"It's time for the governor to speak to the public and tell them (contamination) has happened and how many people are affected by this," he said.
Clean Water Action, Gas Truth of Central PA, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Earthworks, Berks Gas Truth, Sierra Club PA Chapter and PennEnvironment sponsored the Capitol rally. The Times-Tribune reported May 19 that DEP determined that oil and gas development damaged the water supplies for at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012. This article was based on examination of a cache of nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by DEP officials and obtained by the newspaper through a Right-to-Know request.
The determination letters are sent by DEP to water supply owners who ask state inspectors to investigate whether oil and gas drilling activities have polluted or diminished the flow of water to their wells.
Inspectors declared the vast majority of complaints - 77 percent of 969 records - unfounded, lacking evidence to tie them definitively to drilling or caused by a different source than oil and gas exploration, like legacy pollution, natural conditions or mining, the article reported.
One in six investigations across the roughly five-year period - 17 percent of the records - found that oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the spoiled source.
During Tuesday's rally, "Gasland" and Gasland II filmmaker Josh Fox criticized Act 13, the state natural gas impact fee law, saying it seeks to overturn municipal drilling bans and steps between doctors and patients by limiting medical access to fracking formula information. Listening to the rally speakers were Patrick Henderson, Corbett's top energy aide, and DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday. Henderson distributed a paper to reporters about Act 13 and other administration environmental protection actions.
"We absolutely agree that private water supplies must be protected and that's why Act 13 includes the most protective water supply regulations in the nation," Sunday said.
He said DEP will provide tours of its water-quality testing lab in the Harrisburg area to several environmental groups and the media.
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