White questions DEP water testing procedures

December 6, 2012
State Rep. Jesse White

State Rep. Jesse White continues to have concerns about the state Department of Environmental Protection’s transparency regarding water testing procedures related to Marcellus Shale drilling.

On Wednesday, White sent a letter to the DEP secretary in response to correspondence he recently received from the agency disputing White’s allegations that the DEP uses deceptive practices and produces incomplete lab reports that Marcellus gas companies use to dismiss people’s complaints that contaminated water supplies have caused serious health problems.

In his letter, White called the agency’s defense of its water-testing procedures “contradictory” and “disturbing,” and said that DEP’s design prevents residents from seeing a complete rundown of potential carcinogens, heavy metals and chemicals in their water.

White also asked DEP Secretary Micahel Krancer to answer 10 specific questions related to landowners’ rights, the department’s training of field agents and “suite codes,” which White believes are “interoffice cues used by field agents and lab techs to omit test results for certain substances known to be hazardous and associated with Marcellus Shale drilling.”

White also asked Krancer to release the full results of air-quality tests performed by DEP at Cornerstone Care, a Smith Township medical center situated near a natural gas drilling operation that reported mysterious odors, forcing it to move temporarily. White has called on the DEP to release the test results in the past, but his request has been denied.

White said in a telephone interview Thursday that he is not on a “witch hunt” against the gas drilling industry.

“I’m in favor of drilling, but we have to have a strong, independent DEP to keep an eye on things and serve as a watchdog,” said White.

In Nov. 6 and Nov. 12 letters sent by Krancer to White, the DEP secretary called White’s allegations untrue and inaccurate.

Kevin Sunday, deputy press secretary at the DEP said Thursday that the agency has received White’s letter and is reviewing it. He had no further comment.

Karen Mansfield is an award-winning journalist and mom of five who has been a staff writer for the Observer-Reporter since 1988. She enjoys reading, the Pittsburgh Steelers, a good glass of wine and nice people.

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