Closely watched tests by the Environmental Protection Agency have found that the drinking water in Dimock, Pa., is safe to drink, despite concerns from some residents and environmentalists that nearby fracking had contaminated supplies.
For the past seven months, EPA sampled water at private wells serving 64 homes in the small northeastern Pennsylvania town, the primary setting of the anti-natural-gas documentary “Gasland.”
EPA found hazardous substances such as arsenic and manganese in water supplies at five of the homes in question, but said Wednesday that the residences have or will soon have treatment systems “that can reduce concentrations of those hazardous substances to acceptable levels at the tap.”
Agency officials also said EPA will conduct no further testing and will stop delivering fresh water to Dimock residents.
“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 Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin said in a statement. “Throughout EPA’s work in Dimock, the agency has used the best available scientific data to provide clarity to Dimock residents and address their concerns about the safety of their drinking water.”
Located in Susquehanna County, an epicenter of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale gas boom, Dimock had become a lightning rod in the ongoing debate about the safety of hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking.
The controversial process uses millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and chemicals, to break apart underground rock and release massive quantities of now-usable natural gas.
Dimock was the site of frequent protests and had been held up by environmentalists as an example of the problems caused by fracking. The chemicals used during the process, they argue, find their way into water supplies.
In its Wednesday announcement, EPA made clear that the pollutants it identified occur naturally in the area.
Industry groups are painting Wednesday’s news as a significant victory, and as vindication that fracking is a safe process when done correctly and within the proper state regulatory frameworks.
“We are very pleased that EPA has arrived upon these fact-based findings,” said Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which represents companies doing business in the region.
“We are now able to close this chapter once and for all,” she said.
The announcement comes as EPA is in the midst of a broader study on the possible links between water pollution and fracking. The preliminary results of that investigation, which is examining sites in Pennsylvania and a handful of other states, are due by the end of the year.