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Lawmaker accuses DEP of ‘deceptive’ practices; Marcellus Shale water testing at issue

By Fritz Mayer
November 7, 2012

HARRISBURG, NY — A member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Jesse White, is accusing a government agency of deceptive practices in relation to testing for contamination, specifically the testing for possible well water contamination related to drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

White issued a press release on November 1 saying that when testing water for contamination in such cases, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) tests for the presence of 24 metals in the water, but the report received by homeowners and others reveals results for only eight of the metals.

He said the DEP has developed a specific computer code called Suite Code 942, and when a person at DEP requests testing of a water sample and uses that code, it “limits the information coming back from the DEP lab to the DEP field office, and ultimately to the property owner.”

White said, “This is beyond outrageous. Anyone who relied on the DEP for the truth about whether their water has been impacted by drilling activities has apparently been intentionally deprived of critical health and safety information by their own government. There is no excuse whatsoever to justify the DEP conducting the water tests and only releasing partial information to residents, especially when the information withheld could easily be the source of the problem.”

The DEP responded with a statement saying, “Jesse White is ideologically opposed to responsible drilling regulations, which is evidenced by, among other things, his vote against Act 13.”

The release continued, “Our laboratory has the capability of analyzing many, many compounds.  Not all of these analyses are necessary for an investigation into whether oil and gas impacted a water supply.  Our investigators request certain compounds be screened for an analysis, in particular, those associated with oil and gas activities.”

The information regarding Suite Code 942 surfaced in a deposition regarding a lawsuit in Washington County, PA in which it was alleged that drilling in the Marcellus Shale contaminated water supplies and caused serious health issues, including stomach ulcers, nosebleeds and headaches.