Corbett asked to revise reporting on Pennsylvania well water

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Twenty-five environmental groups have asked Gov. Tom Corbett to immediately revise what they say are the state Department of Environmental Protection's outdated, inadequate and incomplete laboratory reporting procedures on well water contamination complaints related to Marcellus Shale development.

In a letter to the governor Wednesday, the groups asked that the DEP start releasing all test results, instead of a limited array of findings, from water sampling conducted by the department in cases of suspected contamination due to oil and gas operations, and release all the results omitted from past water testing.

The groups also are requesting the rollback of a 2-month-old DEP policy that lets top administrators in Harrisburg, instead of water quality specialists in field offices around the state, approve all Marcellus Shale water contamination notices before water well owners are formally notified.

Maya van Rossum, a leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper -- an environmental group in Eastern Pennsylvania -- said the DEP isn't doing its job when investigating water well contamination complaints.

"Instead of digging deeper to discover the facts," she said, "they are doing cursory testing and holding back critical information from those affected, making their decisions fatally flawed."

Eric Shirk, a governor's spokesman, said the groups' letter "does little more than echo unsubstantiated and outrageous allegations." He said the scope of DEP's water test reports are similar to those used in other states, produce accurate contamination determinations, and protect private water wells from the impact of drilling.

During the first two years of the Corbett administration, DEP investigations relying on an incomplete menu of laboratory test results have been unable to confirm 68 of 82 complaints that Marcellus Shale gas development has contaminated water supplies.

In 2010 DEP investigated nine complaints and verified them all, and in 2009 it verified the only complaint it received.

The environmental groups say their request for fuller reporting of lab test results was prompted by the release two weeks ago of a sworn deposition by a DEP laboratory supervisor who said the state lab only reports some water test results to property owners and leaves out others that show contamination.

electionspa - state - businessnews - environment

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1983.


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