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EPA concludes well water safe for 11 families near gas drilling

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency said it did not find significant contamination in well water serving 11 Pennsylvania families, who feared that natural gas drilling had polluted their well.

Some residents of Dimock, a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania, complained that their well water turned cloudy and foul-smelling after an oil and gas company drilled for gas using hydraulic fracturing, a controversial extraction method that involves shooting water and sand laced with chemicals underground to unlock reservoirs of fossil fuels.

In January, the EPA said it planned to test the water of 60 families in the area, where there is currently a state-imposed moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In a statement issued last week, the EPA said that analysis of water samples of the first 11 families “did not show levels of contamination that could present a health concern.”

The EPA cautioned that the sampling was meant to determine the presence of contamination, not the viability of fracking.

“EPA has not done any detailed review to determine the cause” of the water problems in Dimock, the agency said in response to questions.

The EPA did find that six of the 11 homes had “sodium, methane, chromium or bacteria” in their well water but that concentrations were all “within the safe range for drinking water.” The sampling results also found low levels of arsenic in the water of two homes, which will be re-tested.

Craig Sautner, a Dimock resident, said that although the EPA has found his well water safe to drink, he wasn’t convinced.

“I just drew some water out of my well the other day, and it was cloudy,” he said.

The EPA said that it would continue to provide fresh drinking water to homes where contamination was found while it did additional testing.


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