Shale Gas Well Impacts Local Private Water Supplies

A recent Post-Gazette article highlights the plight of several families affected by a leaking impoundment at the Kalp well site located in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County.  MWA has been assisting by making sure affected individuals know their rights under the law and ensuring that the Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) has been adequately addressing the contamination.  It is important that this story has finally come to light because the DEP and WPX, the operator of the site in question, have not properly addressed the contamination.

For the Kalp site, WPX received its first violation on September 18, 2012 when a DEP inspector found holes in the impoundment.  As a result of that leak, three families have filed complaints with the DEP regarding their well water.  In its investigation of the complaints, DEP has exceeded legal time requirements for investigations, delayed in ordering WPX to replace impacted water, and failed to account for existing water data in the case of the Geary family.  As noted in the article, DEP determined that there was no conclusive link between the leaking impoundment and the changes to the Gearys’ water.  That conclusion is unacceptable because the contaminants that show up in increased levels in Gearys’ water match those found in the impoundment and the water of their neighbors.

For its part, WPX has been issued two more violations—one on July 10, 2013 and one on June 17, 2014.  Those violations concern WPX’s failure to replace the water of two families despite a conclusive finding of contamination by the DEP.

If the delays in fully addressing the Kalp situation are actually the result of an ongoing investigation, as DEP spokesperson John Poister claims, then the DEP should not have issued another drilling permit to WPX, as it did on January 27, 2014, until such an investigation is concluded.  Furthermore, how can WPX with “three strikes” against it at the Kalp site alone be able to continue with operations when it has shown a pattern for not addressing its impacts?   DEP needs to invest the time necessary to fully investigate the extent of the contamination from the Kalp site, and halt the operations of WPX while it does so and until WPX takes the safety of Pennsylvanians seriously.

For more information or if you have been affected please contact me.

Photo courtesy of Josh Whetzel.