The US state of Pennsylvania has revealed to the public 243 cases where drinking water has been contaminated by fracking operations throughout the region.
Statistics published online, by the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), reveal that 22 counties within the state have had their drinking water affected by oil and gas drilling contaminations. Susquehanna, Tioga, Lycoming, and Bradford were the worst hit.
State authorities have been under continued pressure from multiple media outlets and campaigners to release information regarding the activities of drilling companies. Both lawsuits and freedom of information requests have been ignored by the DEP, until the publishing of this report.
The effect on drinking water by fracking operations is shown to be varied across the state, but in some cases one drilling site had contaminated multiple water supplies with methane gas contamination and wastewater spills. Some wells subsequently became dry or undrinkable.
Talking to the Associated Press, Thomas Au of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club chapter, said, “I guess this is a step in the right direction, but this is something that should have been made public a long time ago.”
Pennsylvania is currently in a shale gas boom, which has led to a rapid growth in the drilling industry. “That growth,” said auditor general Eugene DePasquale, “caught the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) unprepared to effectively administer laws and regulations to protect drinking water and unable to efficiently respond to citizen complaints.”
“It is almost like firefighters trying to put out a five-alarm fire with a 20-foot garden hose.”
State authorities have also been criticised by campaigners calling for them to investigate accusations that the Department of Health had instructed employees not to help residents complaining of illnesses related to fracking. In an open letter, doctors and other health experts demanded the state investigate.
Protestors in Middlesex, Pennsylvania, have also called for six fracking wells to be moved as they have been built within “explosive range” of Mars School District, a campus of 3,200 children.
Photo source: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations via Flickr