Federal authorities have ruled that the drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania, which some claimed had been contaminated by nearby natural gas drilling efforts, is safe to drink. The statement lends some factual weight to a political debate wrought with emotion and more than the occasional doom-and-gloom proclamation.
Dimock has become a lightning rod in the fight against the natural gas extraction technique hydraulic fracturing. Anti-natural gas activists have used the town in a years-long campaign to prevent the practice, which they insist contaminates drinking water supplies.
But the Environmental Protection Agency says otherwise. The EPA sent an email to Dimock residents informing them of the agency’s findings regarding the state of the town’s drinking water supply. “While we are continuing our review,” Community Involvement Coordinator Trish Taylor wrote, “to date, the data does not indicate that the well water [in Dimock] presents an immediate health threat to users.”
That finding supported claims by Cabot Oil and Gas, which has been sued by Dimock residents. A judge from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently ruled that Cabot had satisfied its requirements under the law to provide potable water to Dimock residents, and the company has announced plans to discontinue water deliveries.
EPA’s findings comport with administrator Lisa Jackson’s previous statements regarding the effects – or lack thereof – of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. Earlier this year, that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Scott Perry, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, echoed that position. “There has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else,” Perry said in April.