DEP reporting practices criticized by environmental groups

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Two dozen environmental groups are calling on Gov. Tom Corbett to reform how water testing and notification is handled by the state Department of Environmental Protection.


The groups, including Clean Water Action, the Center for Coalfield Justice, Earthjustice, Food and Water Watch, Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club, Three Rivers Waterkeeper and Greenpeace sent a letter to Gov. Corbett criticizing how DEP collects and discloses its data.


“One of the biggest fears for people living near drilling is the possibility of having your drinking water supply impacted. We trust DEP to look out for us and safeguard this vital resource. However, that trust is shaken and eroded when you learn about procedures and policies like this,” said Steve Hvozdovich, Marcellus Shale policy associate with Clean Water Action.


The matter stems from a deposition in a lawsuit filed by an Amwell Township man against the DEP and Range Resources.


Loren Kiskadden, of 771 Banetown Road, is suing the DEP and Range Resources for contaminating his water supply.


In September 2011, Alan Eichler, program manager with the DEP, informed Kiskadden that after the DEP monitored his water supply for three months, his water was contaminated with high levels of coliform bacteria. The department believed it was a result of faulty construction of his well.


The DEP also determined high levels of sodium, dissolved solids and methane in his water were not the result of Range’s action at the Yeager well site or from any other gas-related activities. The DEP also recommended Kiskadden install a vent on his well and emphasized the need to disinfect his water supply.


Kiskadden claims his water was contaminated after gas drilling activities took place at the Yeager well site.


During a deposition on the lawsuit, the DEP Bureau of Laboratories technical director testified that not all the chemicals and metals tested for are included in final reports.


That led state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, to call for a criminal investigation into the DEP. White said Wednesday he did not ask the environmental groups to contact Corbett, “but I think it’s becoming more and more obvious for everybody to pay attention to this. The DEP is not forthcoming,” he said.


But DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said White continues to misinterpret the facts. Not all metals are tested if they have nothing to do with gas drilling, he noted in an email sent last week.


Therefore, White’s insistence the department is withholding information “is a red herring and a lawyer’s construct to attempt to suggest impropriety in the context of their personal injury litigation and it bears no relationship to the facts.”


Attorneys for Range Resources appeared in Washington County Court recently asking the court to order the plaintiffs in a related case to release specific evidence. That matter involving Kiskadden and Grace Kisdadden; Stacey, Harley and Paige Haney; and Beth, John and Ashley Voyles, is before Washington County Court Judge Katherine B. Emery, who has yet to make a ruling.


Range’s spokesman, Matt Pitzarella, noted to date, there has been no proof to back up the allegations Range damaged their water supply.


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