Journalism in the Public Interest

So, Is Dimock’s Water Really Safe to Drink?

Preliminary test data appears to complicate the Environmental Protection Agency’s assurances that the water is safe to drink in a Pennsylvania town (EPA said nothing about cause).

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Mike H

March 23, 2012, 10:20 a.m.

@ John

The PA DEP concluded there was no link, but some of the locals, urged on by the activists and the lawyers, pushed the EPA to get involved. How did the PA DEP conclude there was no link? They compared baseline water quality reports taken before drilling started to samples taken from the complainants. The 1984 Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act places 100% of the liability on the drillers for ANY contamination within 1000’ of a drilling operation unless the driller can prove they were not responsible. As such, drillers test the local water quality near their operations so when a complaint is filed they can establish responsibility.

And thats why these complaints go nowhere in the courts, the gas companies have the data to establish the condition of the aquifer before they drill and use that when complaints are filed. Anything beyond this is just a circus sideshow.

A similar case was investigated in Bainbridge township in Ohio. Gas contamination from drilling operations with allegations of widespread drilling fluid/produced water contamination, the similarities with Dimock are striking. When the Ohio DNR got involved they had baseline water samples to compare against and they tested for hundreds of compounds and found that while there was methane contamination in the aquifer, there had not been any drilling fluid/produced water contamination.


March 23, 2012, 10:42 a.m.

What is so progressive about polluted water? 

At this point, I feel lucky, and that I am living in the lap of luxury because I can open my tap and get a clean, cold drink of water without concern.  This is not something to be tampered with.  We are animals; we need the basic essentials:  air, water, food.  You take that away and you take away life. 

Yes, my mind is made up, and it is up to the people who wish to undertake activites which will potentially threaten my life and pollute my environment to show, without a doubt and before any damage has been done, that their ideas and plans are sound.  Once the damage is done it cannot be reversed. 

Mike, you did a great job of displaying what appears to be evidence that one would have to drink excessive amounts of this water to be affected by it.  But I ask:  is it really okay with you to have that tainted water?  Would you really put up with this in your household?  Would you really drink this water?  And how do you continue to know that these “acceptable” levels have not creeped up into the unacceptable range?  Wouldn’t this cross your mind each time you drew a glass of water, made a pot of coffee, or even took a shower?  Would you really like to live this way?  I would not.  I never will.

Do unto others…..

Mike H

March 23, 2012, 11:19 a.m.

@ EdwinPJr

The title of this article is “So, Is Dimock’s Water Really Safe to Drink?”. By any health based metric, the answer is “yes, the water is safe to drink”. Lustgarden has done his level best to twist the case and present information with no context as to the ramifications of the trace chemicals and elements found by the EPA and that is a disservice to the readers.

As to your question, would I be OK consuming “tainted water” the answer is yes, I would feel perfectly comfortable consuming water that had these levels of contaminants in it. That is, unless, I was consuming million of gallons a day of it.

Fact is, no water source on earth is free of contaminants of some sort or another whether they be all natural contaminants like lead, arsenic, mercury, radon, etcetera or manmade organics. With this in mind, the EPA has come to health based standards of what is and is not acceptable.

Ignore them if you want, but don’t pretend they don’t exist or are based on poor assumptions.


March 23, 2012, 12:33 p.m.

So what is the point of this ‘investigative journalism’ story? Let’s see: (1) people think their ground water has been contaminated by energy companies drilling and then fracing gas wells, (2) the state and then the Feds (EPA) investigate, (3) the Feds say the water is OK to drink, (4) but people remain sceptical of the safety of the drinking water.
The state or EPA could do thousands of ground water tests, and even if all of them had the same benign result people will still believe there is a real or possible problem. So what’s the point? People are going to believe what they want to believe, that being that the evil energy companies have fouled their water supply. Nothing will undo that belief, even if test results indicate otherwise. It’s like trying to convince a hard core states-rights Republican to become a liberal progressive, or visa versa, through a presumed rational discourse. It ain’t going to happen.


March 23, 2012, 11:48 p.m.

Mike H., all data aside… for both sides, how do you possibly explain clean tapwater before fracking, and after fracking filthy brown reeking water. How is that not evidence enough for you! This is not the case at one location, it is happening all over the country where fracking for natural gas has occurred.

I bet if you lived in an area where this has happened you would have a completely different viewpoint, especially if you relied on providing your family with this drinking water.

Bottom line is I’d like to see you drink/use water from some of these homes for a month… Bet you wouldn’t do it.


March 24, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

@Mike H or Barry or whomever wishes to defend fracking.

The following analytes appear on one or more of the posted sampling
results at detectable levels.  There are no values posted for these
substances in terms of MCLs.  I ignored the trigger levels where there
are no MCLs listed because I don’t understand what a trigger level
is based on if there is not an MCL to base it on.  I do not see any
results from baseline testing offered here to compare with.  What is your take on the presence of these substances in the posted analyses?

Anionic Surfactant
Chlorophenyl-4 phenyl et
Dinitrotoluene-2,6 ?
Phthalate, di-n-octyl
Phthalate, Dimethyl
Methyl chloride
Bromophenyl-4 Phenyl Et
Butylbenzyl phthalate
Nitroaniline, ortho

Barry Schmittou

March 24, 2012, 9:50 a.m.

Hi Edwin,

I want everyone to knw that the Barry with no last name who suddenly started posting on ProPublica is not me.

The big business sociopaths must believe the Propublica (and other media) comments are so important they have teams of people monitring and engaged in so much deception it would make a great horror movie, except there mass destruction of lives is real.

I believe the evil they delight in is Biblical in proportions and I pray often that God will help us all.

Fracking is extremely dangerous and stupid.

I don’t have time to defend any more attacks from the business trolls, but I just wanted to say that the Barry with no last name who posted above is not me.

rachel soper

March 24, 2012, 9:56 a.m.

Does anyone have a list of what the EPA is actually testing for?

I’m working to help a family in NY-they live near the first(only well?) to be fracked in NY back in 09’ and 10’.  Their horses died after drinking out of the creek within a couple of months of the initial frack.  All the runoff from the frack site does eventually go into that creek.  There were many ER visits and serious residual health problems for the family that we are still struggling to get proper medical help for. 

Their water tests are mostly within normal range.  Most tests were done by the gas co. and there were several problems-water temp of some of the sampling was too high as stated by the lab but the biggest issue was that sampling was not done by an independant 3rd party.  There have been a few independent tests done that the family paid for but these also showed nothing of signifigance.

The tests are very limited and I’m wondering if someone can give me more extensive parameters or tell me who I might contact to get such a list.  Unfortunately, money is an issue for this family so I’m not sure what they can afford interms of extensive testing but I atleast want to look into it for them.

Also, they have an artisian well(constantly moving) and of course the creek runs-so I wonder if it is possible that they did have contamination but it’s been cleared out since fracking ended.

Thanks for any help here.


March 24, 2012, 11:43 a.m.

Rachel, go back to the story and you will find a link near the end of the story which will take you to the sampling results.  This will give you a good idea of what EPA is testing for.

Steve Hunter

March 25, 2012, 10:44 a.m.

I find the whole thing frightening. Wouldn’t it have been logical to test fracking and its long term effects, if any, before such widespread use of the practice.


March 25, 2012, 11:05 a.m.

The issue boils down to greed justice,morals.The comments of those who have experienced the effects themselves trumps the paid commentators of the gas cos..They are unconscious shills,as our President,Congress,EPA ,Governor,Pa DEP are.They would not drink,use the water,yet they say it is safe.They are morally criminal.The evidence that fracking is harmful to the water,air is well established now from the data.That can’t be argued against.The illness,and soon deaths from fracking will just be added to the data already there.It can be summed up in 2 words morally derelict.


March 25, 2012, 2:16 p.m.

France, Bulgaria, Russia (almost) and NJ legislators have banned fracking. Mike H., would you claim they have all gone mad because you don’t want to see the truth? Or did you lease and don’t want to be proven mistaken? What about the seven global symposiums (ENGINE) held to discuss fracking issues, reporting microseismicity as well. Have they gone mad, too? Dr Theo Colburn, a former DEP Chemist opened a non-profit organization whose mission is to prevent damage to people, TEDX,, which lists about 5 videos that expose the chemicals introduced into our environment which impact us in very serious ways. Would you say she is a fake too. Wake up! At the rate we are pumping chemicals into the ground, current exposure will render your offsprings incapable of reproducing. Is that a good thing? Well…....?


March 25, 2012, 9:38 p.m.

Somehow, one of the Dimock area families whose water was tainted, was having water delivered by Cabot Oil and Gas and didn’t own two nickles to rub together, suddenly had their water clear up and this good fortune caused 3 brand new pickups to appear in their front yard. Another family with tainted water was able to bank 3 million dollars right after their water suddenly became clear, clean and drinkable. A third family suddenly became wealthy after their water became potable. Is there a pattern here? Your water is bad. Then it isn’t bad and you become wealthy. How does this work?


March 26, 2012, 11:19 a.m.

The more i hear from Mike H,the more i think the H stands for Halliburton.I would be very interested in know who he works for.He seems to be taking this personal like it’s money out of his pocket.


March 27, 2012, 4:45 p.m.


I would like to know where you saw these stories so I can read them for myself, please.  The stories about the alleged or apparent payoffs.  Thanks.


March 27, 2012, 6:59 p.m.

Edwin P Jr, I didn’t read the stories. I was there and saw what was happening. For verification, get in contact with Craig Stevens Marcellus Patriots at 570-967-2280 or Julie and Craig Sautner, Ground Zero at 607-206-5554

Norma Fiorentino (neighbor of the Sautners) is the owner of the home which blew up from gas accumulating in her well house. She is diabetic, lives on Social Security, did not lease, the explosion was considered an act of God, so she sleeps in her wheelchair because she can’t afford to repair the front of her house. She has no bed or couch and lives primarily in her kitchen, since the front of the house is gone.

I am getting first hand information from the people who are hurt by the swath of atrocities surrounding the gas fields, by honoring annonimity. It is really ugly! The signed leases demand secrecy with gag orders written into the leases with threats of forfeiture of payout and or threats, but not the kind one can take to the police. People there live in fear as vandalism and hate crimes occur to those who talk and get found out. I, too have experienced those threats for nosy-ing around.

Mike H

March 27, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

@ EdwinPJr

It means the EPA’s instruments were very sensitive, not that there is any danger associated with these compounds at these levels.

@ Marjorie

Theo Colburn is a nutjob and professionals dont take her too seriously.

Also, Norma Fiorentino got a check for $228,928 and well exploded, not her home so cut the BS about how she sleeps in her wheelchair because she doesnt have enough money to fix her home.


March 27, 2012, 9:43 p.m.


I don’t get it.  Can you please provide a source for this explanation?  I have thus far been unable to find any resource which explains MCLs.  Is there a document which explains how the EPA or local DEPs set these standards?  Any info is appreciated.


March 28, 2012, 9:16 a.m.

Mike H., If you break a fluorescent light bulb and get the powder on your skin, you will absorb mercury, a highly toxic chemical. A one time exposure, will not kill you, however, repeated exposure will eventially exceed the levels your body can tolerate, causing your body to shut down (die) due to accumulative effect. Accumulative trace amounts of toxins, over time cause dis-ease. This is the nature of chemicals. Instrumentation used for analyses in laboratories normally measures in trace amounts. MCL, if microliter is .0001 of a liter. A liter is 1.0567 of a liquid quart, when measured as distilled water at 4 degrees centigrade.
Dimock water and water in other areas in close proximity to Fracked wells show traces to large quantities of chemicals toxic to humans, which because of being uncommon are not among the chemicals normally tested for being present, therefore, assumed to not be there. But when your flowers die, your animals die or loose their hair or you get hives, get dizzy or feel sick all over, common sense says there is something wrong.

Theo Colburn is a former DEP chemist, now runs a non-profit organization called TEDX whose mission is to prevent damage to individuals. If protecting people is done by “nut jobs”, it is my express opinion we need more nut jobs to counteract those sane people who go around poisoning people, even if it is poisoning in small increments.

As for Norma, the force of the explosion in the well house, which was within 25 feet of the front of her home, blew away the whole front part of her home, which was still covered with a tarp in December, when I took her out for lunch. And yes, she sleeps in a wheelchair without a bed or couch in the rear of what was her home. $228,928 does not go far in replacing what you lost or pay out for medical expenses. I didn’t have the effrontary to ask her how much she received as payoff or even if she did get a payoff. Curiously, where did you get that figure? that link could come in handy for research purposes and for filling in the blanks in first hand testimony.


April 18, 2012, 10:09 a.m.

If the water is so safe, have the officials at EPA and the executives at the gas companies - and their families - drink the water for 6 months.

I’ll bet they refuse.

Gudrun Scott

April 18, 2012, 3:48 p.m.

There is a saying about arguments:  when the facts are on your side, argue the facts, when the law is on your side - argue the law , when neither is on your side- argue like mad.

Mike H you accused Dr Coburn as being a “nutjob” and that is strictly a bitter personal attack and indicates that you are out of gas and are depleated in any reasonable arguement.

I believe that Dr Coburn among other issues has spoken out against very very tiny quantities of plastic chemicals that can cause hormonal problems in humans.  Specifically the use of soft plastic in baby bottles which has been outlawed in Europe— (“oldfashioned” Europe is ahead of the US)  but now in the US mothers also do not use soft plastic baby bottles and scientists at Yale has confirmed the problem that is created from microscopic small amounts that chip off the polymer of the plastic causes hormonal disturbances. I apologize for not siting the details of these facts but someone could look it up—the day is too beautiful- I have to outside and enjoy!  Can that be excused as a fair argument?

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This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

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