Methane, benzene in Texas tap water leads to EPA emergency order

by admin on December 9, 2010

On December 7, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency stepped in to protect residents of Parker County, Texas, from, per the EPA order, “an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire” and “a potential imminent endangerment to the health of persons using those private drinking water wells.”  This is an unprecedented action in Texas.  The EPA was incited to take this measure by the failure of the state authority, the Texas Rail Commission, to act on the complaints of the residents who reported gas bubbles in their water three months ago in August.  The affected homes are near hydrofracking wellbores drilled by Fort Worth based Range Resources.  Range Resources protests that the contaminating gas is coming from shallow gas zones, but test results establish that the gas originates in a deeper shale formation, such as the Barnett shale, the target of Range’s fracking.  Benzene, a potent carcinogen, was also found in the tap water.  The commission defends its failure to act by stating that the  assignment of blame by the EPA to Range’s wells is “premature”.  Commissioner Elizabeth Ames James said the move is “another EPA action designed to reach pre-determined conclusions and to generate headlines rather than conduct a successful environmental investigation.”    The emergency order requires Range Resources to provide fresh water to the affected residents within 48 hours and to begin taking steps to resolve the problem.

Link to editorial in Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Deb Fulton December 9, 2010 at 4:06 am

More Dimock-style flammable water. God bless the EPA. It disturbs me to know that the Texas Railroad Commission did nothing for months while people were exposed to risks of harm. In this case the evidence clearly points to Range as being the culprit, clearly enough that the EPA evoked the wrath of the Commission. The Marcellus shale gas industry crows that there hasn’t been a single case of aquifer contamination due to direct contamination by drilling and fracking activity. But there have been cases of contamination due to cracked well casings, and not just in Dimock, PA. Will the Parker County contamination cases be proven to be due to well casing failures? If not via failed well casings, then how? I’m interested in hearing the rest of this story.


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