Just the Facts...
Below is a list of pertinent events in the current Woodlands water contamination fiasco.
- In late 2010, Rex Energy commenced its shale-gas drilling operations in the Woodlands area of Connoquenessing Twp., Butler County. By January 2011, at least a dozen households that previously had good clean water for at least a decade, all suddenly found themselves with a host of water problems, ranging from discoloration (orange, purple, black), to foul odors, to getting sick when they or their pets drank the water, to the water suddenly disappearing from their wells.
- In Dec. 2011, Rex Energy announced that, according to rigorous scientific testing done by the lab they hired, Environmental Service Laboratories Inc., there was no way that their drilling operations had anything to do with water contamination complaints in the Woodlands. The PA Dept. of Environmental Protection later backed up these findings.
- A February 2012 Associated Press article reported that initial post-drilling water quality tests in the Woodlands conducted by the DEP showed man-made industrial contaminants in the water – a multi-chemical mix that suggested either multiple sources of contamination or one industry that uses many chemicals. Shale-gas drilling is the only industry in the Woodlands area. It also noted that the chemicals found in those initial post-drilling results were not even tested for in the results that exonerated Rex Energy from blame.
- A follow-up AP report revealed that Rex Energy gas wells near the Woodlands neighborhood had developed casing problems during the drilling process. Neither Rex nor the DEP had disclosed this fact to Woodlands residents or the public, either at the time of the incident or during the later discussions of possible water contamination in the area. Faulty gas-well casings have been a common factor in documented water-contamination incidents linked to natural gas drilling.
- In early November 2012, both the Associated Press and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on court depositions by two former DEP employees-turned-whistleblowers, stating that the DEP routinely creates incomplete lab reports and uses them to dismiss complaints that Marcellus Shale gas development operations have contaminated residential water supplies. According to one deposition, a special lab code for Marcellus Shale water contamination complaints, “942 Suite Code,” is used statewide. In a Post-Gazette file review of DEP water quality reports generated under that code, it was found that those reports didn't disclose all of the contaminants found in well water samples. The water complaints in these cases were then dismissed because the abbreviated reports did not support the property owner complaints. One of the areas mentioned in the Post-Gazette's report on its file review was The Woodlands.
- In August-September 2012, Rex Energy commenced another round of drilling and fracking. By October, the number of Woodlands households reporting water problems had risen to at least 25.
In the face of the above factual statements, I have two questions to ask the citizens of Butler County:
1.) Are the Woodlands water contamination problems related to shale-gas drilling in the area?
2.) How do we go about getting honest accountability from county, state and local officials regarding this problem, and from our “sacred cash cow,” the shale-gas drilling industry?