Oil and gas operations have damaged Pennsylvania water supplies 209 times since the end of 2007, according to official determinations compiled by the Department of Environmental Protection that the agency is preparing to release for the first time.
State environmental regulators are planning to post the information on DEP’s website this month, but an early version of the spreadsheet was provided to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in response to an open records request.
The spreadsheet lists the 209 affected water supplies by county, municipality and the date regulators concluded that activities related to oil or gas extraction were to blame for contaminating or diminishing the flow to a water source.
The document does not disclose property owners’ names or addresses and it does not detail which companies that were deemed responsible for the damage, what caused the disruptions or what pollutants were found in the water….
“There are 209 contamination cases since 2008, which is a lot, in my book, especially when you are talking about somebody’s drinking water supply,” said Steve Hvozdovich, the Marcellus Shale coordinator for the environmental group Clean Water Action.
The DEP spreadsheet reveals that oil and gas operations have affected water supplies in nearly every region where drilling occurs, from the shale gas sweet spots in northeastern Pennsylvania to the traditional oil and gas patch in the state’s northwest corner. DEP found that drilling activities damaged water supplies in Bradford County 48 times – the most of any county – followed by Susquehanna County (35 times), McKean County (24 times) and Forest County (17 times).
DEP’s southwest regional office issued the fewest water impact determinations of the three regional offices that oversee the industry. It found drilling activities caused water supply problems 13 times in six years: eight times in Indiana County, twice each in Washington and Westmoreland counties, and once in Fayette County.
The rate of problems has stayed flat in recent years following a surge in cases between 2008 and 2009 as shale gas extraction increased in the northeast region and methane trapped in shallow rock layers escaped into groundwater through flaws in some new wells there.