Syracuse, NY – In advance of President Obama’s visit to Binghamton on Friday, Syracuse City Councilor At-Large Jean Kessner joined today with an elected official from Montrose, PA and local-area residents from Dimock, PA to call on President Obama to reopen the US Environmental Protection Agency’s high-profile investigation into fracking-related drinking water contamination in Dimock, PA and re-start water deliveries to families. Also, affected Dimock resident, Ray Kemble, publicly released his letter to President Obama inviting the President to visit Dimock, PA as he travels from Binghamton to Scranton, PA on Friday to see fracking contamination first-hand and meet harmed local residents.
A recent report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that EPA officials in Washington DC chose to close an investigation of Dimock drinking water despite evidence gathered from agency investigators based in Philadelphia that found “significant damage to the water quality,” from poisonous contamination likely caused by the fracking process. The EPA PowerPoint Presentation was recently released on DeSmog blog by investigative journalist Steve Horn. Evidence of drinking water contamination due to the fracking process was similarly ignored by the EPA in Pavillion, Wyoming and Weatherford, Texas. Last week, Dimock residents delivered about 50,000 petitions to new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy at her office at EPA Headquarters in Washington DC calling on her and President Obama to reopen investigations in Dimock, PA as well as Pavillion, WY and Weatherford, TX. They are also calling on EPA to provide safe drinking water to residents while these investigations are reopened.
“For years now, I have had to live with toxic, poisoned water in my home,” said Ray Kemble, a former gas industry employee turned whistleblower and an affected Dimock area resident. “When EPA finally stepped in and tested my water, I thought ‘Thank God. Someone is finally here to help us.’ But then it became apparent to those of us on the ground that they were playing politics. EPA officials literally told us officially that our water was safe to drink but then told us off-the-record not to drink it. Now the truth is out. We want President Obama to do his job and not play politics with our water and our lives.”
Syracuse City Councilor At-Large Jean Kessner said, "A consistently growing body of science indicates that fracking isn't safe and puts clean water and good health at serious risk. It's imperative that President Obama and the EPA reopen the investigation of water contamination in Dimock, PA and listen to the science and independent experts."
“The purpose of the EPA is to protect all Americans from the types of health and safety hazards the gas drilling process has clearly caused in Dimock and elsewhere,” said Montrose Borough Councilor Juleanne Skinner from Montrose, PA. “The people in this country deserve better than this. It’s time for President Obama and the EPA to do its job and stand up for public health, not continue wilting under pressure from the oil and gas industry to simply maintain the dangerous status quo. Americans deserve to have potable, safe drinking water.”
In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection concluded that a fracking well drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation was responsible for methane contamination of a large aquifer in Dimock, PA resulting in the contamination of the drinking water of 19 families. The PA DEP enacted a drilling and fracking moratorium in the area and promised to build a water line from a nearby town to the residents. Then they rescinded that promise, leaving Dimock residents to fend for themselves.
During the next few years, Cabot Oil and Gas paid for water deliveries to the residents and then abruptly stopped in December, 2011. Residents and advocates demanded the EPA and the federal government step in and in January, 2012, the EPA commenced water deliveries while conducting its own investigation into groundwater contamination caused by drilling and fracking operations. In the summer of 2012, the EPA concluded its investigation and stated that Dimock's water wasn't contaminated from drilling and fracking operations, however the LA Times now reports that internal documents show regional EPA staff members said the exact opposite. Staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely from local gas drilling and fracking.
"EPA’s decision to walk away from the investigation in Dimock – as well as those in Pavillion and Parker County – raises serious red flags,” said Kate Sinding, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Given these studies all have the potential to help answer critical questions about how fracking impacts drinking water, it makes no sense for EPA to abandon them, not to mention the affected families in these communities.”
Residents argue this isn’t the first time the EPA has stepped back from connecting the evidence from its own studies of water contamination to unconventional gas drilling and fracking operations. Dimock’s story is emblematic of a troubling pattern in EPA groundwater investigations related to fracking.
In late 2010 in Weatherford, Texas, after evaluating samples from a water well near drilling and fracking operations, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane. More than a year later, the agency rescinded its mandate and refused to explain why. However, in an Associated Press story that later emerged, the EPA had scientific evidence against the driller, Range Resources, but changed course after the company threatened not to cooperate with a national study about hydraulic fracturing. In response to this threat and industry pressure, regulators set aside an analysis that concluded the drilling could have been to blame for the contamination.
More recently, the EPA abandoned the fracking study in Pavillion, WY, which found benzene, a known carcinogen, at 50 times the level that is considered safe. However, even with this evidence, the EPA stepped away from this study and instead handed it over to the state of Wyoming, whose lead politicians have repeatedly vocally supported fracking. Worse, the research will be funded by EnCana, the very company whose drilling and fracking operations might have caused the groundwater contamination.
In his letter to President Obama, Ray Kemble of Dimock, PA invites the President to visit Dimock to witness the damage and harm that fracking has caused. “You will see what it is like living in a gas field with a rig outside of your living room window and see first-hand the discolored, foul-smelling water that comes out of my well that your EPA said was safe to drink. You will also see the constant heavy- truck traffic on our little dirt road and hear the endless loud noise that keeps me awake at night. I invite you here to see for yourself the ongoing tragedy that the gas industry has caused in Dimock, Pennsylvania and urge you to reconsider your support of fracking.”