Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Poisoning people’s drinking water is not something to be tolerated."

By George E Turner
Tunkhannock, PA

As a licensed professional geologist with more than twenty years of experience in groundwater work and environmental cleanups, and one who has done a great deal of research on the various chemicals commonly used in fracking, I started doing well testing for people who live near proposed gas wells.

The majority of the ground water that we have in this area is exceptionally good drinking water that is free of contamination. It is our most precious and underappreciated resource.

The Dimock residents filing the lawsuit may not have had adequate testing of their water after the blast to determine either the number, or the type of chemicals in their water. Methane may be the most noticeable contaminant as evidenced by the explosion, but in this type of contamination, it probably is not the only one, or the most dangerous one.

Traces of methane in drinking water are common, but the huge amount that is bubbling out of it now, is not. Full analysis of the water for all of the chemicals used in drilling and fracking the wells, and for any contaminants brought up from the Marcellus Formation, should be done periodically by an independent agency. The drilling companies should be required to pay for the testing. The idea that they don’t have to disclose what they pump into the ground is unbelievable.

Landowners need to know that DEP only requires the gas companies to do water tests on water wells that are within 1000 feet of the drilling site. Considering the fact that gas wells today can be drilled horizontally up to at least a mile in all directions from the well site, the DEP 1000 foot
> requirement is not enough. I suspect that the 1000 foot limit on the testing of nearby wells was enacted before horizontal drilling became commonplace.

It’s finally time that the drilling companies are being held responsible for all of the damages they have caused by Marcellus Shale drilling. At Dimock, Cabot initially maintained that the company was not responsible for the water contamination, simply because no one could prove that the contamination was not there before the gas wells were drilled.

People have no idea what they are up against. Protect yourself beforehand. By sampling your water now, what you are doing now is laying the groundwork for a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the oil companies for contaminating your groundwater. If your water turns up contaminated after a gas well is drilled, and you don’t have undisputable proof that it was not contaminated before the drilling, you’re out of luck.

To stand up in court, the sampling must be done by a professional with the proper geological and
groundwater contamination knowledge, who has no interest, either financial or otherwise, in the property. The samples need to be placed in special laboratory cleaned containers, and immediately placed on ice and kept there during transportation to the labs. Chain-of-custody forms must be maintained for all of the samples. They show that neither the landowner, nor anyone else, had access to them.

These are legal documents that show who took the samples, and who had access to them from the time they were taken, to the time they were delivered to the lab. The credibility of the test requires that the samples must be kept under lock and key. Analysis must be done by labs certified by both the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

If the drilling companies are put on notice that they will pay dearly for any mistakes that they make, then they will be more careful not to make them. I am not personally opposed to gas drilling, but I feel that the oil and gas companies need to be held accountable. Water is our number one natural resource, a precious commodity that no one can live without. Poisoning people’s drinking water is not something to be tolerated.

Mr. George E Turner, P.G.
Licensed Professional Geologist
1645 SR 29S
Tunkhannock, Pa. 18657
Phone: 570-836-1055


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