From: Edward McAllister and Timothy Gardner, Reuters
Published January 6, 2012 07:10 AM

EPA may retest PA. water near fracking drilling site

Federal regulators are considering retesting water supplies at a small town in Pennsylvania that residents say have been contaminated by natural gas drilling.


Just a month after declaring water in Dimock safe, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency are taking another look after new evidence provided by residents suggested that drinking water could be more polluted than originally thought.

"We believe that additional information is needed to better understand the situation in Dimock and respond appropriately," an EPA spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday, after receiving hundreds of pages of data from Dimock residents.

"EPA is considering next steps including conducting some samples of well water in the area," the spokeswoman said.

The tests may become pivotal in a national debate about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the drilling technique that could unlock decades' worth of natural gas trapped in shale deposits, but which environmentalists say contaminates water supplies.

Dimock, among the most heavily drilled areas in the Marcellus Shale, has become a flashpoint for the growing tension between energy companies and locals in shale regions. The EPA's promise to conduct more testing will be a victory for residents, who have complained that their concerns have been ignored.

Federal officials told affected residents, some of whom have been without fresh drinking water since drilling began there three years ago, that they may begin testing their water within two weeks.

"The EPA realize that they made a bad decision," said Dimock resident Julie Sautner, who was visited by the EPA on Wednesday. "They never came in and tested our water."

Photo shows a Dimock, Pennsylvania resident who did not want to be identified pouring a glass of water taken from his well after the start of natural gas drilling in Dimock, Pennsylvania, March 7, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Tim Shaffer

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