Marcellus Shale

What People Do Not Understand About Their Public Drinking Water

I get annoyed when people say they don’t want their drinking water ruined by natural gas development even though there has never been a documented case of drinking water contamination due to hydraulic fracturing.  Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator, in fact has said “In no case have we made a definitive determination that the fracking process has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.”

They also don’t seem to understand the aquifer is not one body of water underground, but thousands of independent aquifers in Northeast Pennsylvania.  Any development, even drilling a drinking water well for a new home, can cause methane migration in Pennsylvania because of our geology (the problem experienced in Dimock) but that has nothing to do with hydraulic fracturing and deep natural gas.

I’ve had people say to me they get their drinking water from the Delaware River and they don’t want it contaminated.  Drawing drinking water from the river is not common, except for Trenton, which has a state-of-the art double filtration system.  Most drinking water is actually drawn from city wells, municipal-owned reservoirs and private wells.  What I can’t figure is why don’t these same people go crazy when the news reports e-coli contamination from sewage overflows, lazy swimmers, animals feces, or dead bodies in their reservoirs, like the one found in Bethlehem’s Reservoir this week?  Maybe that is why Bethlehem’s drinking water reeks of chlorine!

So, I went to get quotes straight from the horse’s mouth.  Here is what the City of Bethlehem’s 2001 Annual Consumer Report on the Quality of Tap Water, which also supplies water to Bethlehem Township and other municipalities, says:

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791).

The sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.

Contaminants that may be present in source water before we treat it include:

  • Microbial contaminants, such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife.
  • Inorganic contaminants, such as salts and metals, which can be naturally-occurring or result from stormwater runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, or farming.
  • Pesticides and herbicides, which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture and residential uses and stormwater runoff.
  • Radioactive contaminants, which are naturally occurring.
  • Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes, and can also come from gas stations, stormwater runoff, and septic systems.

Then I wondered, what is their track record? Well, they meet all Federal EPA standards but there are times during the year where there are problems.  As they report:

During the month of July there were three locations, in May there were 2 locations and in February, March, September and November there was 1 location out of 100 routine sample sites where Coliform bacteria were detected. Check samples at these locations came back negative. During the month of June there were 2 locations out of 100 routine sample sites that Coliform bacteria were detected. Two check samples came back positive and subsequent check samples came back negative.

If I were to put these sample testing results in perspective, that would mean, for every 100 glasses of water you drink, 2 have been contaminated by Coliform bacteria at the source.  Thank God for the treatment they do before delivery.

They also post this warning in their report:

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune disorders, some elderly, and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. EPA/CDC guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791).

More information is available on the World Wide Web at

Now that statement raised my eyebrows!  This is delivered water they are warning about.  This is the same water that comes through your tap and into your glass, cooking pots, and baby formula. Again, many of the people who have such emotional, unfounded concerns about hydraulic fracturing are the same people who drink city water.

I watched many of the leaders of the anti-natural gas movement drink Bethlehem’s water at  the DRBC hearing in Bethlehem a few years ago where you needed to put a lemon in it to tolerate it.  Again, I repeat, I get annoyed when people say they don’t want their drinking water ruined by natural gas development even though there has never been a documented case of drinking water contamination due to fracking.

We even have that moment on film (at 1:00).



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