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EPA investigating possible groundwater contamination from gas drilling

3/14/2012 | Real Estate Blog

Federal officials from the Environmental Protection Agency are currently conducting an investigation of claims that water supplies near the Marcellus Shale have been contaminated. The Marcellus Shale, as our readers know, has been cause for hope in terms of economic growth, but it has become a source of environmental concern as drilling continues.

Federal regulators are conducting investigations in the both the northwester and southwestern corners of the state, and sampling water around Pennsylvania as part of a national study of the potential environmentaleffects of hydraulic fracturing, the process used to extract oil and gas in shale formations.

While the process of hydraulic fracturing allows drillers to extract previously inaccessible reserves, it also produces a large amount of polluted wastewater. According to environmentalists, the process can contaminate groundwater, but drilling companies deny the claim.

The Environmental Protection Agency has the duty of ensure drinking water is safe to drink, though it has largely allowed states to handle rulemaking and enforcement during the increase in drilling in recent years.

Some lawmakers and industry representatives in Pennsylvania are responding to heightened federal scrutiny negatively, saying the state of Pennsylvania is best suited to handle environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. For its part, the EPA says public health is the primary concern of its investigation.

So far, several reports of drilling-related contamination have surfaced in several Pennsylvania communities. The EPA agreed last month to deliver water to four homes, but testing had not turned up enough evidence of water contamination to justify supplying water to several other residents who had been getting water from a gas drilling company accused of causing irreversible water contamination as a result of drilling.