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DEP Developed a Water Test for Marcellus Shale Impacts … But Never Used It. Ever.

'The Corbett Administration has adopted a policy of deciding what we deserve to know, and they apparently feel you don’t deserve to know if there are cancer-causing toxic chemicals in your water. It may sound harsh, but it’s simply the truth.'

In November 2012, it was revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was only giving the public partial data for water quality tests conducted near Marcellus Shale drilling sites.

The DEP uses something called a ‘suite code’—a three-digit number that tells the computer what information to pull out of the computers at the DEP laboratory and pass on to DEP Field Agents who write the reports to tell you whether your water is impacted or contaminated.

Through depositions of DEP officials, we learned that Suite Code 942 was being used, which only gives results for eight of the 24 metals the DEP must test for. Several scathing letters written to me from DEP Sec. Michael Krancer, who Gov. Tom Corbett appointed, implied that DEP wasn’t hiding anything and the suite codes had been updated to disclose more information. He also went on to berate me and question my motivation in seeking this information, while conveniently failing to answer any of my very legitimate questions.

But in the two rambling responses from Secretary Krancer failed to mention is the existence of Suite Code 944, titled “Marcellus Inorganic Survey.” As compared to Suite Code 942, which gives results for eight substances, and Suite Code 946, which gives results for 16 substances, Suite Code 944 gives test results for 45 different substances. Suite Code 942 was developed back in 1991, 13 years before the first Marcellus Shale well was drilled, yet has been used the most by DEP. Interestingly, Suite Code 944 was developed in 2008 but has never once been used by DEP.

Even though I had specifically asked Secretary Krancer on multiple occasions, none of this information was provided to me by the DEP; a reporter obtained it through the Open Records Law. In plain English, the DEP developed the right test to use for water quality near drilling sites but never used it and never told anyone about it, but somehow they feel they shouldn’t have to explain any of this to the public.

This should be simple; people are entitled to all the facts about what’s in the water they drink. No ifs, ands or buts. There is no legitimate excuse the DEP can give for withholding the information. It’s not a cost issue. The testing is all being done at DEP laboratories, and the full tests are being run on every sample; they’re just not giving the results for everything they find.

The Corbett Administration has adopted a policy of deciding what we deserve to know, and they apparently feel you don’t deserve to know if there are cancer-causing toxic chemicals in your water. It may sound harsh, but it’s simply the truth.

The combative response by DEP, coupled with its unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of Suite Code 944, much less actually ever use it, makes it almost impossible for an objective person to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Someone made a conscious choice to use the codes that gave people less information than they needed, and the taxpayers deserve some real answers. Last week I appeared on KDKA Radio to discuss this issue, and the DEP spokesman refused to go on the air at the same time as me. Instead, he waited until I was done and simply lied through his teeth in an attempt to spin the situation. The lying needs to stop. The spin needs to stop. The cute word games need to stop. I want no more than the people deserve, which is the full and unfiltered truth.

Some people will interpret this position as being ‘anti-drilling,’ which is ridiculous. You would think the natural gas industry would be the first one demanding full disclosure, especially if it truly believes its operations had no impact on the water. This has nothing at all with being for or against drilling—it’s all about demanding real accountability and transparency from the government agencies charged with protecting the people of Pennsylvania.

Last week I introduced legislation to directly address this issue. House Bill 268 would require the state Department of Environmental Protection to disclose the full and complete testing results, including raw data and documentation, of any environmental tests conducted by the department on a landowner’s or leaseholder’s property in Pennsylvania. DEP would have to make the information available at no cost and within five business days of receiving a written request from the landowner or leaseholder, or face civil penalties of up to $1,500 if the department fails to make the information available.

This is reasonable legislation to ensure people are getting all the facts, not just the ones hand-picked by the Corbett Administration. I will be fighting like hell to get this legislation passed in Harrisburg, but I already know that given the political climate in the state capitol, it will be an uphill battle. The sad reality is most of the legislators from around the state (and some right around here) don’t want to rock the political boat enough to get you the truth you deserve about the water you drink.

It’s beyond frustrating.

I will also be hosting a House Democratic Policy Committee Hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 in the Washington County Commissioners’ Meeting Room at Courthouse Square. The hearing will focus on DEP and its environmental testing practices. I encourage you to attend, and if you have had an experience with DEP, I would ask you to consider telling your story by testifying. You can make arrangements by calling my office at 724-746-3677.

I also invited the DEP to attend the hearing and answer some questions. It would be a great opportunity to demonstrate a real commitment to giving us the answers we deserve. Will they show up? I guess we’ll have to wait until Feb. 19, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

lvck January 31, 2013 at 09:44 PM
Great article and great work by Jesse White!
Donald Roessler February 01, 2013 at 07:14 PM
I don't have any problem with this. Getting all the facts is important to all of us no matter what the issue may be.
cecil resident February 02, 2013 at 04:15 AM
I like Donald stated the last time we had no problem with this. I also stated if it is used in a proper way and not just to create a lot of law suits because not everything found in well water is due to fracking and a lot of anti drilling people will assume that. I am working on getting people to come to the Feb 19 hearing should prove interesting.
cecil resident February 02, 2013 at 04:16 AM
One more question will pro gas people also be allowed to speak if we have had dealings with the DEP?
Donald Roessler February 02, 2013 at 06:12 AM
I don't have any issues with the DEP. So I won't be there.
cecil resident February 02, 2013 at 03:42 PM
The only reason I'm considering going is that it is the only way you will get the truth about what is said at the hearing because we can't rely on our local news to get all the facts out. The only organization that will put out the real facts is EID maybe they should send a representative so we can hear the full story.
Amanda Gillooly February 02, 2013 at 03:47 PM
Proud - I will try to attend too. If at all possible, I will try to include some video so people can see for themselves what happened at the hearing! As I have said before, it isn't plausible to include every fact and quote of a meeting/hearing into a story (or else we would just be recorders instead of reporters, you know?). That's why I like including source documentation such as court records and videos. Just wanted to let you know! Hope everyone keeps warm this weekend!
Joseph Massaro February 04, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Well, Energy in Depth just put two people on the ground in Southwestern PA. Any information on this meeting? I would be happy to attend. Joe Massaro Joe@eidmarcellus.org
Donald Roessler February 04, 2013 at 09:04 PM
Hi, Joe
Dan Hink February 25, 2013 at 04:55 AM
According to http://shalestuff.com/controversy-2/msc-statement-pa-dep-air-emissions-data/article05892 they stated that the total percentage of statewide emission from shale of NOx was 3%. That is hardly a noticeable amount, if you consider the benefits when used as fuel. As long as those figures are correct I don't have a problem with them. They clearly need another agency to come in and do a second study though.
cecil resident February 25, 2013 at 12:40 PM
Dan Prouder American was given these two letters on another site about the DEP. they where sent to Re. White in Nov. http://files.dep.state.pa.us/AboutDEP/AboutDEPPortalFiles/RemarksAndTestimonies/Rep_Jesse_White_ltr_re_Test_Method_200_7_Thomas_Hayes_Study.pdf http://files.dep.state.pa.us/AboutDEP/AboutDEPPortalFiles/RemarksAndTestimonies/Rep_Jesse_White_ltr_re_Test_Method_200_7_Thomas_Hayes_Study.pdf
Jesse White February 25, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Janice, those letters in no way answer any of the issues and can be easily contradicted by actual facts. Please stop parading around like you've found the Holy Grail or something. I sent the DEP a letter on 12/05/12 with ten simple questions and never received an answer, and that was BEFORE any of us learned about Suite Code 944, which was specifically developed for Marcellus Shale but never used. Since you apparently have all the answers, can you enlighten us as to why the DEP never used 944 or even mentioned it in any letter? Can't wait for your response.
cecil resident February 25, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Jesse is it alright if I use your first name I don't want to show you any disrespect or prouder american or Janice Gibson will get on my case. If these letters proved you so right why did Donald Rosseler have to produce them after so many times you where asked to produce them. I knew the minute they were produced either you or prouder American or Janice Gibson would say thats not enough. I have been accused of being EID'S mole by you and the above mention could they maybe your moles?
cecil resident February 25, 2013 at 02:25 PM
So Prouder American aka Jesse White"s mole are you saying that one of the people Rep. White represent is not allowed to think for themselves we should follow everything he says and not question if we disagree with his stance on the whole Range and DEP issues ,we all know one is connected to the other. You are every where I go praising everything he states and I respect you for your choice so respect me for my choice. Since you are so engaged what is your vested interest? I have told you many times I don't take money for my opinion and the internet supplies my talking points I think it is called google. If you go back in the Patch archives you will fine that is the only real debate I have with Rep. White is his stance on the Range and DEP issue. I'm a pro gas enviromentalist an a American who has the right to disagree with the person my tax dollars pay.
cecil resident February 25, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Rep. White you say these letters don't prove anything why didn't you post them if they proved your point why did someone else have to do it? We all seen your letter on Dec, 5, 2012 that is the only one you felt we should see. I don't have all the answers that is one of the reason I keep asking you questions. Unite our communtiy Rep. White and post a postive thing about Range Resources and the DEP could be that is what the citizens who feel differently then you are waiting for. In less then a years 20 negative postings about the DEP not one positive and that is only on the Patch. Do I need to supply the ones against Range you did post good ones about Range before you where against them that is a whole neither story.
cecil resident February 25, 2013 at 05:00 PM
http://whirlmagazine.com/drilling-for-answers/ here is a very good site and they give both sides of this issue even Rep. White

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