PA DEP Forced to Reveal Drilling Damage in 161 PA Water Supplies

Dimock, Pa. resident Craig Sautner shows off his water.
Dimock, Pa. resident Craig Sautner shows off his water.

Oil, gas drilling damage in 161 Pa. water supplies

SCRANTON (AP) — Oil and gas development damaged the water supplies of at least 161 Pennsylvania homes, farms, churches and businesses between 2008 and the fall of 2012, according to state records obtained by a newspaper.

The (Scranton) Times-Tribune first requested the records in late 2011 under the Right to Know law, but the Department of Environmental Protection mounted legal challenges and didn’t release the records until late last year.

The Times-Tribune analyzed nearly 1,000 letters and enforcement orders written by DEP officials. The determination letters are sent to water supply owners who complained that drilling activities polluted or diminished the flow of water to their wells.

About 17 percent of the investigations across the five-year period found that oil and gas activity disrupted water supplies either temporarily or seriously enough to require companies to replace the source. According to the letters, faulty wells channeled natural gas into the water supplies for 90 properties. Three of those cases were tied to old wells, one of which caused an explosion at a home after gas entered through a floor drain and accumulated in a basement.

The department repeatedly argued in court filings that it does not count how many determination letters it issues or track where they are kept in its files. The DEP has also fought efforts by The Associated Press and other news organizations to obtain similar records.

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