Calling out the EPA and Pennsylvania’s DEP over Fracked Water Testing

Posted by By at 1 March, at 16 : 44 PM Print

The water is stirring in D.C. over fracking and the potential mix of radioactive material. U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA) is requesting that Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency increase its inspections.

Casey’s call comes days after a piece in the New York Times raised dozens of issues, and the primary one of concern is the lack of routine water testing, which has not occurred at about 65 drinking intake sites since 2008, and the majority of those gone without an inspection for nearly six years.

“No threat to Pennsylvania drinking water should be taken lightly; especially one involving radioactive material,” said Senator Casey. “Alarming information has been raised that must be fully investigated. I am calling on the DEP and the EPA to increase inspections of Pennsylvania drinking water resources for radioactive material and to account for why sufficient inspections haven’t taken place.”

Beside increased inspections and an explanation, Casey wants more public disclosure about the drinking water and what’s floating in Pennsylvania’s rivers.

Casey remains supportive of gas drilling as a vehichle to create more jobs, but as he said, it must be done in a way that protects the health and safety of Pennsylvanians and workers, and for that matter does not burden local governments or leave roads in ruin.

Below are the letter’s that Casey fired off to DEP and the EPA.

Dear Acting Secretary Krancer:

I was alarmed to read the recent article in the New York Times about the deficiency in monitoring radioactive materials in Pennsylvania’s water resources. I am deeply concerned that not enough is being done to protect Pennsylvanians’ drinking water.

Because they may not be equipped to adequately treat wastewaters from hydraulic fracturing operations, some wastewater treatment facilities may release still-tainted waters into rivers and other waterways. The contaminants still remaining, including radioactive materials, could find their way into drinking water and aquatic species that may be used for food. It is apparent that there is not enough monitoring to accurately and impartially portray the levels of contaminants that may be present in the wastewaters coming from hydraulic fracturing operations.

Specifically, the article states that no testing has occurred at more than 65 drinking water intake sites since 2008 and that most haven’t been tested since 2005. Why have inspections not taken place and what is the plan to inspect all drinking water intake facilities – especially those that are downstream from drilling sites. These waters should be tested as soon as possible, continuing on a regular basis with full disclosure to the public.

I believe that if done correctly, natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania can provide a great economic boost, create jobs, and be a source of cleaner domestic energy. I know that Pennsylvania has recently implemented some additional measures to protect our resources and to provide oversight. We have to get this right.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to continue working with you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

Dear Administrator Jackson:

I was alarmed to read the recent article in the New York Times about the deficiency in monitoring radioactive materials in drinking water. I am deeply concerned that not enough is being done to protect the drinking water of my constituents.

As you may have read, the New York Times recently reported that the widely used method of hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas may present a significant risk to drinking water due to the wastewater that is produced when the materials sent underground return back to the surface.

While I realize that the EPA does not currently regulate hydraulic fracturing through the Safe Drinking Water Act, it appears that the actions of industry may pose exposure risks of Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM) via drinking water ingestion. What is not in doubt is that there is a wide range of levels of radioactive materials found in Marcellus Shale gas wells and the produced water from their operations. I request that EPA examine and assert its authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, and other applicable laws to ensure the safety of citizens who use water from regulated drinking water sources.

When wastewater treatment facilities release contaminated water into rivers and other waterways, it may find its way into drinking water and aquatic species that are used for food. It is apparent that there is not enough monitoring to portray accurately and in an unbiased manner the levels of radioactive contaminants that may be present in water. Specifically, the article states that no testing has occurred at more than 65 Pennsylvania drinking water intake sites since 2008, and that most have not been tested since 2005. waste disposal as the main “bottleneck for the industry.” It raises concerns about the high number of abandoned wells in Pennsylvania waste disposal as the main “bottleneck for the industry.” It raises concerns about the high number of abandoned wells in Pennsylvania

I have a number of requests regarding EPA’s authority and actions, particularly as they relate to the potential of radionuclide contamination of drinking water:

1. As you know, these conventional wastewater treatment plants have not been specifically designed or required to treat, or even test, the water for radioactive substances. However, the New York Times article cites a 2009 EPA study that determined that some Pennsylvania rivers are not cable of sufficiently diluting radioactive wastewater. Why did EPA not make this information available to Pennsylvania regulators? What requirements does EPA currently have that pertain to limiting contaminants in fracking wastewater, and to inform treatment plant operators what is in that water?

2. Why has EPA not examined the monitoring at drinking water facilities, and what is EPA’s plan to inspect all drinking water intake facilities, especially those that are downstream from wastewater discharge sites? I ask that you inspect these sites as soon as possible.

3. Can EPA add or require more frequent radioactivity testing to their list of wastewater pollutants that are required to be limited? Does EPA have the statutory authority to require more frequent testing for radionuclides in drinking water under its present authorities, including statutes other than the SDWA? If so, I strongly urge that EPA expedite the process to require testing for TENORM more often. If not, and in the meantime, I urge EPA to issue guidance or advisories within a short time frame in order to inform treatment plant operators of the risks of the presence of TENORM and that they should undertake testing.

4. Will EPA be examining radioactivity issues in its study of relationships between hydraulic fracturing and drinking water resources? The March 2010 draft of the scoping materials pose a question about characterizing and controlling TENORM, and I urge EPA to ensure follow-through on this subject.

For the utmost protection of water sources, and the drinking water of my constituents, I urge you to examine carefully and strongly assert the authority that EPA has to more closely and frequently monitor what is in the wastewater delivered to the treatment plants, pollutants discharged into water sources, and contaminants in drinking water.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to continue working with you on this matter.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

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