EPA Head Challenged to Drink Water from Wells Contaminated by Fracking

By Anne Meador

If you’ve watched Josh Fox’s blockbuster frack-umentary Gasland, you’re familiar with Dimock, Pennsylvania, the town fracked within an inch of its life by Cabot Oil & Gas.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency shut down its investigation into water contamination in Dimock due to fracking, concluding that the water was safe to drink.

Yet last year the LA Times and DeSmogBlog revealed that the EPA had covered up findings showing that fracking wells in Dimock caused “methane to migrate up to aquifers to unprecedented levels.”

A whistleblower at the EPA subsequently alleged that the studies were dropped for political reasons.

Dimock residents with contaminated wells want to hold the EPA accountable. On October 10, some of them traveled to Washington, DC to confront current EPA head Gina McCarthy.

“My water is brown and smells so bad it will make you nauseous, yet EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy tells me and my neighbors that this poison is safe to drink,” said Dimock landowner Ray Kemble.

In front of EPA headquarters, he and about twenty-five supporters threw down the Frack Water Challenge: If the water in Dimock is so safe, then bottoms up!

Craig Stevens and Ray Kemble display well water from Dimock
Craig Stevens and Ray Kemble display well water from Dimock

Holding containers of the yellowish-brown water drawn from Dimock wells, Kemble and neighbor Craig Stevens offered McCarthy a choice of either drinking water she had declared “safe,” or re-opening the EPA investigation.

“Gina McCarthy, I’m calling you out to come drink my water from Dimock, Pennsylvania. Come and drink it and see it,” said Kemble.

Tom Reynolds of the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs accepted a petition with 250,000 signatures calling for the EPA to re-open its investigation into contamination of Dimock’s water.

Kemble also served him the Frack Water Challenge. “The EPA says it’s good for me to drink. So you want a drink?” Reynolds quickly shook his head.

Ray Kemble from Dimock offers EPA official some of his well water.
Ray Kemble from Dimock offers EPA official some of his well water.

Kemble said that in spite of a two-year moratorium on fracking in Dimock, there is still a rig drilling only 500 feet in front of his house. “And the DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] won’t do anything about it.”

Reynolds committed to looking over all the materials they had sent him and contacting them within a week.

The EPA event was one of hundreds around the world associated with Global Frackdown, an international day of action initiated by Food & Water Watch to promote a ban on fracking, the unconventional method of gas extraction which breaks up shale rock by injecting water, sand and chemicals at high pressure.

See more photos of the Frack Water Challenge at the EPA here.

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