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Is Pennsylvania doing a bad job of protecting drinking water? - abc27 WHTM

Is Pennsylvania doing a bad job of protecting drinking water?

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Dennis Buterbaugh
abc27 News

The New York Times raised some eyebrows by saying Pennsylvania's monitoring of water from gas well sites is lax. Is there any danger to our drinking water from a process known as hydraulic fracturing?

Engineering a producing gas well is not as simple as drilling a hole in the ground and adding some pipe. Underground rock structures have to be fractured to release natural gas. The process is known as hydraulic fracturing. Water, acid and other materials are pumped under extremely high pressure to fracture the underground rock structures. The process has been used for decades in Pennsylvania.

The New York Times articles suggest that naturally occurring, low level radioactivity picked up by underground water could be a health hazard if it reaches drinking water supplies.

 It was the first thing that Governor Corbett's choice for DEP Secretary was asked about in a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

"There are drinking water standards," said Judge Michael Krancer, the Acting DEP Secretary. "As one of the commentators of the article says, we think it's safe. There have been calls from various quarters to do some testing."

Judge Krancer said if he's confirmed as DEP Secretary, he'll look into such testing.

But the man who just departed as DEP Secretary said experts on radioactivity and health within the agency assured him it is not a concern.

"Those are the experts in state government who looked at this thing and were very sure at the time that it did not pose a threat," said former DEP Secretary John Hanger.

Hanger said drinking water operators are already required to check for radioactivity, although not that frequently. He said doing more testing is the smart thing to do.

A DEP spokesperson said about 70 percent of waste water at gas well sites is recycled on-site. Some of the waste water goes to treatment plants for processing before being released in streams and rivers.

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