(For the uninitiated, Josh Fox’s 2010 Oscar-nominated Gasland documentary on the alleged dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, had a key image of a local resident putting a match to a running kitchen faucet, and watching the water catch fire. That faucet was in Dimock, and the documentary blamed oil and gas driller Cabot Oil & Gas and its fracking technology for contaminating the local groundwater with methane gas and other toxins. Local residents complained that their drinking water developed a strange smell, taste, and color, and caused some to become ill soon after drilling began.)
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just completed the sampling of 64 wells in the area, much to the chagrin of the oil and gas industry which has been pushing for fracking to remain regulated at the state level, rather than by federal authorities. Beyond the states’ rights argument, some in the industry were nervous that findings of contamination would amp up the environmental lobby’s pressure on the US government to restrict fracking nationwide.
The results are in. The agency found that some wells had contaminants, including arsenic, barium, and manganese at five wells. Poison and heavy metals. Good news for the anti-fracking lobby? Not so fast.
The EPA determined that all these contaminants were naturally occurring and not the result of drilling, and that the area’s water was safe to drink.
The agency had been providing alternative water sources to four homes where it had suspected possible water contamination, but following the testing it concluded that the contaminants did not present a health concern and plans to stop providing water to those homes. The EPA has no further plans for water testing in the area.
Chalk this one up as a success for the pro-fracking lobby.