From the EPA news release:
(DALLAS – December 7, 2010) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered a natural gas company in Forth Worth, Texas, to take immediate action to protect homeowners living near one of its drilling operations who have complained about flammable and bubbling drinking water coming out of their tap. EPA testing has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in their water pose an imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire. EPA has also found other contaminants including benzene, which can cause cancer, in their drinking water.
EPA has determined that natural gas drilling near the homes by Range Resources in Parker County, Texas, has caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells. Therefore, today, EPA has ordered the company to step in immediately to stop the contamination, provide drinking water and provide methane gas monitors to the homeowners. EPA has issued an imminent and substantial endangerment order under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Parker County is located west of Fort Worth, Texas.
The natural gas company in question is Range Resources Corporation. They issued a statement denying (naturally) that they are causing any groundwater problems in the area:
Based on our findings to date, it’s very clear that our activities have not had any impact on the water aquifer in southern Parker County or the subject water wells. Range’s wells are completed in the Barnett Shale formation which is over a mile below the water zone. The investigation has revealed that methane in the water aquifer existed long before our activity and likely is naturally occurring migration from several shallow gas zones immediately below the water aquifer. Despite these findings, we remain committed to working with regulators and residents to determine the cause and to assist with any remediation the Texas Railroad Commission determines is warranted. Range will also offer to provide drinking water to residents in the area while the investigation continues.
A related news story from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram discusses similar complaints by other people claiming groundwater problems caused by development of the Barnett shale and actions by the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency with the obligation to police such issues.
Here is a copy of the EPA’s letter to Range Resources.
Clearly this episode is far from over.