EPA acts on a natural gas drilling groundwater case

Michael Giberson

From the EPA news release:

(DALLAS – December 7, 2010) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered a natural gas company in Forth Worth, Texas, to take immediate action to protect homeowners living near one of its drilling operations who have complained about flammable and bubbling drinking water coming out of their tap. EPA testing has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in their water pose an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire. EPA has also found other contaminants including benzene, which can cause cancer, in their drinking water.

EPA has determined that natural gas drilling near the homes by Range Resources in Parker County, Texas, has caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells. Therefore, today, EPA has ordered the company to step in immediately to stop the contamination, provide drinking water and provide methane gas monitors to the homeowners. EPA has issued an imminent and substantial endangerment order under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Parker County is located west of Fort Worth, Texas.

The natural gas company in question is Range Resources Corporation. They issued a statement denying (naturally) that they are causing any groundwater problems in the area:

Based on our findings to date, it’s very clear that our activities have not had any impact on the water aquifer in southern Parker County or the subject water wells. Range’s wells are completed in the Barnett Shale formation which is over a mile below the water zone. The investigation has revealed that methane in the water aquifer existed long before our activity and likely is naturally occurring migration from several shallow gas zones immediately below the water aquifer. Despite these findings, we remain committed to working with regulators and residents to determine the cause and to assist with any remediation the Texas Railroad Commission determines is warranted. Range will also offer to provide drinking water to residents in the area while the investigation continues.

A related news story from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram discusses similar complaints by other people claiming groundwater problems caused by development of the Barnett shale and actions by the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency with the obligation to police such issues.

Here is a copy of the EPA’s letter to Range Resources.

Clearly this episode is far from over.

 

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5 thoughts on “EPA acts on a natural gas drilling groundwater case

  1. Man-made earthquakes are causing problems with the groundwater? That is preposterous on its face, and slanderous at best! Oh wait, maybe it’s not, since there are stories like this all over the place, except they are not widely publicized because they are taking place in areas with relatively low population density when compared to the area in the above article. I remember remarking to my uncle back in 2004 or so “I bet we will hear about problems with these wells in 4-5 years.” Looks like I was right!

  2. There are stories like this all over the place, but at least over the last few years I’d say that they are pretty well publicized. (You know, mentioned in the New York Times, on 60 Minutes, and such places.) What remains contested is evidence of a link, and so far the evidence is thin than properly drilled fracking jobs lead to contamination.

    Even in this case above, in which EPA has reported finding “methane contamination … directly related to oil and gas production facilities”, one of the main things that the EPA is ordering Range to do is collect and deliver to the EPA a lot more data on soil and atmospheric conditions surrounding Range’s operations. Perhaps normal in a regulatory intervention, but it seems like the EPA is looking for evidence that would confirm or deny the “finding” that they’ve already acted on.

  3. Bravo for the EPA. This is an important step in their long term plan to remake the American economy into one based on subsistence agriculture and handcrafts. It will also accelerate the the administrations goal of bankrupting the Chinese by borrowing all of their money, and then defaulting on our bonds.

    We are so boned.

  4. @Fat Man

    So it’s ok for me to pollute my neighbor’s water supply? I don’t understand where you are going with this. I am not a huge fan of the EPA, in fact I am thoroughly against a government body “protecting” the environment, however, it is clear in this case that some action must be taken. It is no accident that shortly after “fracking” rigs appeared in some areas, the groundwater was contaminated. The “fracking” fluid may not be directly responsible for the contamination, but even a rudimentary understanding of the way the water table works sets off alarm bells in the heads of anyone who stops to think for a minute about what “fracking” really is. They are literally creating man-made earthquakes to release the natural gas that would otherwise be trapped in the shale rock. They drill down until they hit the shale rock, fill up the rock with “fracking” fluid, apply electrial current to manipulate the fluid, causing the rock to break apart and release the natural gas trapped within. Along with that natural gas, there is also methane, benzyne, and other heavy metals and gasses that are trapped in the shale rock, these are also released as part of the fracking process.

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