By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency said drinking water is safe to consume in a
small Pennsylvania town that has attracted national attention
after residents complained about hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, for natural gas.
The EPA has completed testing water at 61 homes in Dimock,
Pennsylvania where residents have complained since 2009 of
cloudy, foul-smelling water after Cabot Oil & Gas Corp
drilled for gas nearby.
"This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants
that would give EPA reason to take further action," Roy Seneca,
a spokesman for the regional EPA office, said about the final
set of data released Friday. The agency released data for only
59 of the homes as they could not contact residents at two of
Dimock became ground zero for the debate about fracking
after Josh Fox, the director of Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary
called "Gasland," visited the town and met residents who feared
their water was contaminated by the drilling.
Techniques including fracking have revolutionized the U.S.
natural gas industry by giving companies access to vast new
reserves that could supply the country's demand for 100 years,
according to the industry.
Environmental and health groups, however, say that some
fracking operations near homes and schools pollute land and
The EPA will re-sample four wells where previous Cabot and
state data showed levels of contaminants, but where EPA's first
round of testing did not find levels that would require action,
The agency found one well in the last batch of data that
contained methane, a main component of natural gas.
Seneca would not say what the agency thought the source of
that methane was, but said the agency will conduct a review of
Residents have complained that methane could be from
fracking, but industry groups say methane can occur naturally in
wells in energy-rich areas.
Over the course of the EPA tests that have been released
since mid-March, contaminants were found in some wells. But the
EPA said those levels were safe. In the first set of tests, for
example, six of 11 homes showed concentrations of sodium,
methane, chromium or bacteria. Arsenic was also found at two
homes, but, again, levels were deemed safe.
Cabot spokesman George Stark said any contaminants found in
the tests "are more likely indicative of naturally-occurring
background levels or other unrelated activities."
Another three Dimock homeowners had wanted their water to be
sampled by the EPA but they have not scheduled a time for the