UPDATE 1-Water safe in town made famous by fracking-EPA

Fri May 11, 2012 6:11pm EDT

By Timothy Gardner	
    WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency said drinking water is safe to consume in a
small Pennsylvania town that has attracted national attention
after residents complained about hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, for natural gas. 	
    The EPA has tested water at 61 homes in Dimock,
Pennsylvania, where residents have complained since 2009 of
cloudy, foul-smelling water after Cabot Oil & Gas Corp 
drilled for gas nearby.	
    "This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants
that would give EPA reason to take further action," Roy Seneca,
a spokesman for the regional EPA office, said about the final
set of data released Friday. The agency released data for only
59 of the homes as they could not contact residents at two of
them.	
    Dimock became ground zero for the debate about fracking
after Josh Fox, the director of Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary
called "Gasland," visited the town and met residents who feared
their water was contaminated by the drilling.	
    Techniques including fracking have revolutionized the U.S.
natural gas industry by giving companies access to vast new
reserves that could supply the country's demand for 100 years,
according to the industry.	
    Environmental and health groups, however, say that some
fracking operations near homes and schools pollute land and
water.	
    The agency found one well in the last batch of data that
contained methane, a main component of natural gas. 	
    Seneca would not say what the agency thought the source of
that methane was, but said the agency will conduct a review of
the data. 	
    Residents have complained that methane could be from
fracking, but industry groups say methane can occur naturally in
wells in energy-rich areas. 	
    Claire Sandberg, the executive director for Water Defense,
an anti-fracking group, said methane, which was also found in
the previous EPA results, was dangerous to people with heart and
lung problems.	
    The EPA will re-sample four wells where previous Cabot and
state data showed levels of contaminants, but where EPA's first
round of testing did not find levels that would require action,
Seneca said. 	
    Over the course of the EPA tests that have been released
since mid-March, contaminants were found in some wells. But the
EPA said those levels were safe. In the first set of tests, for
example, six of 11 homes showed concentrations of sodium,
methane, chromium or bacteria. Arsenic was also found at two
homes, but, again, levels were deemed safe. 	
    "Safe levels have not been established for numerous
chemicals that were found in the test samples, although many can
cause serious health ailments," said Sandberg.	
    Cabot spokesman George Stark said any contaminants found in
the tests "are more likely indicative of naturally occurring
background levels or other unrelated activities."	
    Another three Dimock homeowners had wanted their water to be
sampled by the EPA but they have not scheduled a time for the
testing.
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