The secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is defending his agency in a response to a local lawmaker who called for an investigation into DEP water testing methods.
Secretary Michael L. Krancer, in a letter to state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, dated Tuesday, wrote that White “misapprehended some important facts” over how the agency handles water quality testing related to Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling.
Last week, White called upon state and federal enforcement agencies to investigate “alleged misconduct and fraud” following a sworn deposition in a civil case by a DEP Bureau of Laboratories director. That case involves a lawsuit by three Amwell Township property owners against the DEP and Range Resources, claiming they have experienced health problems from nearby gas drilling activities. All three property owners have leases with Range.
The testimony provided by technical director Taru Upadhyay involved codes used to test for contamination within certain parameters.
To White, that means some relevant data is being withheld from property owners.
Krancer took exception to that, noting that Upadhyay did not testify DEP developed a special code in order to manipulate data but that the code was first developed in 1991 to identify elements that would indicate contamination from gas drilling.
“In this particular investigation, the levels of the additional parameters were extremely low,” he wrote.
Krancer also noted White fails to appreciate how the DEP lab functions which is to generate data while the field staff reviews that data.
“Mixing these functions together would not only be redundant but would also be inappropriate protocol for any laboratory because it would put the laboratory’s rigorous impartiality into question,” he wrote.
White said while the laboratory tests for 24 metals results, only the results of 8 metal tests are returned to the field office.
“If they have nothing to hide and did everything the right way, why not just give everyone the data?” he asked.
The DEP has demonstrated its willingness to protect citizens and hold operators accountable when drilling activities impacted water supplies, Krancer said.
“Our staff are professionals, and know what to look for to determine the cause of possible water supply contamination,” he added.
White is still hoping for an investigation into the matter.
“I think we need an outside pair of eyes to come in and look at what’s going on here,” he said.