January 23, 2012
In yet another case of drinking water contamination in areas where energy companies have engaged in the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is supplying clean water to some residents of Dimock Township, Pennsylvania (pop.: 1,398), at taxpayer expense.
Apparently concerned that the contamination may be more widespread, EPA will soon begin more extensive testing of the local water supply. In fracking, energy companies use powerful pumps to force pressurized fluid into deep layers of rock, causing fractures, which allow the extraction of otherwise unavailable natural gas or oil. In the case of Dimock, Cabot Oil and Gas began fracking operations in the area in 2006, and by January 2009, some locals were reporting methane bubbling out of their faucets and tap water actually catching fire, meaning that natural gas had contaminated the water. Although the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Cabot $120,000 for numerous violations and Cabot supplied drinkable water to local residents for a few months, the water has since become even more contaminated, not only with methane but also with dangerous levels of cancer-causing arsenic, as well as glycols and barium in at least four wells.
As AllGov reported last September, groundwater toxicity because of fracking is a growing problem, with EPA ordering residents of Pavillion, Wyoming (pop.: 165) to avoid the water because it had dangerous levels of benzene, lead, phthalate, nitrate, 2-butoxyethanol phosphate, petroleum hydrocarbons, methane and sodium. Similar incidents of fracking-induced water contamination have occurred across the country, even as energy companies insist that fracking is safe.