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Note to EPA on Dimock: Less is Not Always More
March 3, 2012
As most people are aware, the last few weeks the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in Dimock to test the water of about 60 households. During this process, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Cabot Oil and Gas were also allowed to conduct their own tests at each of these properties. Guess what? It turns all these residents allowed Cabot to conduct tests; everyone except, that is the handful of litigants who requested EPA involvement in this issue. Strange, isn’t it? One would suppose these folks would want as much information as they could get, but they did not. They only wanted selective testing by an EPA that relied upon readings for elements such as manganese and sodium, for which there are no primary drinking water standards. It says a a lot, doesn’t it? Read on to find out what occurred as Energy In Depth (EID) covered the testings.
The Water Tests
Although testing times varied at each location, the testing methods were consistent. Each test began with a purging of the well. This is done to ensure water is being pulled from the well itself and not from the pipes or pressure tanks. It took the EPA, DEP, and Cabot approximately four hours per house for each water test, averaging four houses a day.
Each well was tested for a variety of characteristics, well beyond the list of contaminants EPA claimed to justify its bizarre Superfund tactics on behalf of the litigants.
Problems with Testing
Unfortunately, from house to house, some issues arose. It became quickly apparent that conducting all of the tests in a timely fashion required the EPA team to split into teams and cover two locations simultaneously.
When the EPA team designated to test the Maye’s well on Carter Road arrived 30 minutes late without the proper testing supplies, they had to wait an additional hour for the second team to become available to conduct the tests.
This, coupled with the need to test their water with and without filtration, caused the testing to last a full eight hours at this one residence.
Some residents identified potential problems with the way the EPA was testing their wells. One such issue revolved around the fact the EPA used the same hose for each of the household well purgings. The water from the hose was emptied into a bucket to test for pH, temperature, and some other variables at each of the residences. So, despite the comments in the following video from an EPA official, there was potential for contamination between households in measuring characteristics such as pH.
Other residents expressed skepticism regarding the disposal of the purged water. Did you catch, for example, what the EPA representative had to say about why it’s okay to run purged water out on the ground with a creek mere feet away? He said, “Because it’s drinking water quality.” Oh, really? Forgive us for being skeptical, but we thought you needed a reason for employing Superfund authority to investigate Dimock. It’s beginning to look a lot like “Who’s On First?” isn’t it?
Pardon me. I’m no scientist, but if this water was “drinking water quality,” what was the point of spending taxpayer dollars testing it? And if it was not, as EPA suggested as an excuse to involve itself in Dimock, shouldn’t the government agency commissioned to protect our environment have been the first to know it might not be such a great idea to put it anywhere that might potentially contaminate an additional water source?
Litigants Refused to Allow Cabot to Test
Over 50 homeowners had three separate sets of testing done on their water. Why then did the eleven households in litigation with Cabot not allow the company or at least DEP to also test? Throughout the last three years, some of these families have prevented Cabot from upholding the Consent Order to conduct court mandated tests on their water. This time it’s no different as these same residents have blocked Cabot from sampling, yet again.
Some residents who permitted the EPA, DEP and Cabot to test their water asked why Cabot and DEP were not allowed to test all the households. One asked, “Where is the check and balance system? What are other residents hiding? Wouldn’t it make sense to have three sets of data, rather than one or two, to spot inconsistencies?”
This situation is the foundation for the Enough is Enough campaign. Enough is Enough is an effort to stop the spread of the misinformation in the media about Dimock. This group of individuals, comprised of the majority of the residents in the Dimock area, have recently begun publically questioning the litigants as to why they have refused testing and treatment and yet portray Dimock as a wasteland. Check out their new Dimock Proud website and Facebook page.
Less is Not Always More
After witnessing first-hand the problems with EPA’s testing protocols, it’s clear having three sets of tests would leave less room for error. If health and safety are really the biggest concerns, it would be beneficial to have more comparable data to weed out possible inaccuracies. Or, are some folks counting on that contaminated hose? Only time will tell, as we wait five weeks for the results.