Waiting for water: DEP and drillers must respond more quickly

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Waiting for test results can be agonizing, whether they are school exams or medical scans.

Imagine how nerve-wracking it would be to wait a year or more for the promise of a permanent supply of clean water. Three couples who live in a rural area near Ligonier didn’t have to use their imaginations; they’re still waiting for a Marcellus Shale gas driller to provide them with an alternate water supply even though the state Department of Environmental Protection has ordered it.

The latest determination that WPX Energy Appalachia LLC’s leaky wastewater impoundment in Westmoreland County was responsible for fouling a family’s water came in the instance of Ken and Mildred Geary. The Gearys, who live on Route 711, complained a year ago that their water smelled and tasted like chemicals. DEP tests in June showed the well water contained higher concentrations of chloride, barium and other dissolved solids than were present prior to WPX drilling, and the DEP issued an order against the firm last week.

The Gearys’ next-door neighbors had the same problem, yet the DEP order regarding their property came in February. It’s curious that the Gearys had to wait another six months, but none of the three cases in the area were resolved quickly. The third family complained in September 2012 and an order didn’t come until last year.

Meanwhile, WPX has been providing bottled water to the families in the interim, but it is not yet known if the company will appeal the latest DEP ruling or whether or when the company will provide a permanent source of water for them.

These families have had to wait too long. DEP needs to respond more quickly with definitive determinations in cases like these, and the drillers found responsible must move faster to provide clean water when they destroy existing supplies.

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