Following a series of tests indicating that water from private wells in Dimock Township, PA, is safe to drink, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday said it has determined "that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require additional action by the agency" and it has no plans to further test water samples in the township.
In May EPA said it had completed the sampling process at 61 homes in the Susquehanna County community but planned to resample four wells where previous testing by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) "showed levels of contaminants that pose a health concern but where EPA's initial round of sampling data did not detect levels that would require action" (see Shale Daily, May 15). Water from wells at a total of 64 homes in the township were tested between January and June of this year, EPA said Wednesday.
"Our goal was to provide the Dimock community with complete and reliable information about the presence of contaminants in their drinking water and to determine whether further action was warranted to protect public health," said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "The sampling and an evaluation of the particular circumstances at each home did not indicate levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take further action."
EPA had been delivering temporary water supplies "as a precautionary step" to homes where data had previously indicated that water from four wells contained levels of contaminants that posed health concerns. "At one of those wells EPA did find an elevated level of manganese in untreated well water. The two residences serviced by the well each have water treatment systems that can reduce manganese to levels that do not present a health concern," EPA said.
"As a result of the two rounds of sampling at these four wells, EPA has determined that it is no longer necessary to provide residents with alternative water. EPA is working with residents on the schedule to disconnect the alternate water sources provided by EPA."
During the sampling in Dimock, EPA found hazardous substances -- specifically arsenic, barium and manganese -- all of which can be naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern. "In all cases the residents have now or will have their own treatment systems that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap," EPA said.
The announcement follows a string of findings that seemed to exonerate Cabot of responsibility for any groundwater contamination. In May EPA said a fourth and final round of testing indicated that water from 12 private wells in Dimock was safe to drink, and found no evidence of contamination from natural gas drilling. Earlier this year, EPA deemed water samples safe to drink from 11 households in the Carter Road/Meshoppen Creek Road area, followed by the same finding at another 20 wells in the township (see Shale Daily, April 10; March 19).
EPA's findings "are consistent with thousands of pages of water quality data previously accumulated by state and local authorities and by Cabot Oil & Gas," Cabot said. "As with the other findings, EPA did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area."
EPA officials said in January the agency would take water samples from homes in Dimock, much to the chagrin of the DEP and Cabot, which had both maintained that Dimock's water was safe (see Shale Daily, Jan. 27; Jan. 23). The EPA had previously agreed with that sentiment, but it reversed its position last December and asked residents to participate in a survey (see Shale Daily, Jan. 3).
In a Twitter message sent Wednesday afternoon, Marcellus Shale Coalition President Kathryn Klaber said the announcement signaled an end to EPA's foray into Dimock. "We're now able to close this chapter once and for all," Klaber tweeted.