Last week, a news report by the Timesonline revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Environment (DEP) has been avoiding using its most stringent water testing method for determining if local drinking water has been polluted by fracking. The report serves as yet one more chapter in the continuing saga regarding DEP’s water testing practices that turn a blind eye to fracking contaminants.
The whole issue revolves around how the Pennsylvania DEP tests and reports results for water supplies reportedly contaminated by fracking. Over the years, DEP has developed a number of specific tests—each with its own numbered code—designed to measure contaminants of concern related to fracking. If the Pennsylvania DEP field agents send a water sample to the lab labeled with the code “942,” for example, that tells the lab to measure for 24 types of water contaminants1—including heavy metals.
Late last year, however, it came to light that—at least in some cases—lab reports to field agents and homeowners contained results for only 8 of the 24 tested-for contaminants. In other words, in making its determination whether local well water was or was not contaminated by fracking, the Pennsylvania DEP ignored portions of its own drinking water lab results that could have shown toxic contaminants linked with fracking.
As Natural Resources Defense Council’s President, Frances Beinecke, blogged, this would be like “having a doctor say you are healthy because a test for diabetes came back clean, but refusing to tell you the tests for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke risk didn’t look so good.”