Jonathan Barnes is an award-winning Pittsburgh freelance writer who has written thousands of newspaper, magazine, and news service stories. He is a longtime correspondent for Reuters and Engineering News-Record, and a stringer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has contributed to Fortune, The New York Times, New York Daily News, Newsday and other publications. His personal essays have been published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, ENR, in magazines, journals and on his blog, Barnestormin:

Shaky Ground (part 3 in a series on fracking)

By Jonathan Barnes

After years of dealing with water problems they believe were caused by fracking, or hydraulic fracturing to find natural gas, people like Ron Carter in Dimock, PA, are left wondering if they will ever have their problems solved

. While the EPA is providing water to the Carter family and three other residences in Dimock, it could provide more to others, or stop altogether. According to a Jan. 31 statement made by the Philadelphia office of the EPA, Cabot actually has criticized the EPA for providing alternate water supplies to homes in Dimock.

“We took this precautionary and limited step as an interim measure to be protective of human health while monitoring is underway,” the EPA statement said, adding that Cabot has also characterized the presence of certain chemicals, such as arsenic, manganese, and sodium as naturally occurring. “This is misleading, since although these chemicals are naturally occurring in Susquehanna County, the levels of arsenic, manganese and sodium found in the Dimock

area are not consistent with background concentrations typically found in the zones from which Dimock homeowners draw water for their private wells… the arsenic and manganese levels, when reviewed by an EPA toxicologist, were at levels high enough to present a health concern, supporting the need for alternate water. This latest explanation by Cabot about their data further underscores the need for EPA to have reliable validated information.”

Cabot Oil & Gas is responsible for the fracking around Dimock, but the company has not been forthcoming in providing information to the EPA, agency officials said. Now, the energy company is providing the agency with a flood of documents that will take a long time to review.

“Beginning on January 10, Cabot began submitting data in response to the Agency’s request of January 6. EPA is reviewing that data, which consists of approximately 10,000 pages of records pertaining to the site,” EPA officials said in a statement. “Until that point, Cabot had not provided EPA any data. Furthermore, Cabot has advised us that even more data, estimated at 100,000 additional pages, is still to be provided. We plan to carefully consider it, along with the results of our own sampling, in determining next steps.”

Carter said he believes his problem with his

well water being tainted can be remedied. “If they can build new prisons in Pennsylvania and [recycle] the wastewater, they ought to be able to fix my water here,” he said. [Continue reading…]

Shaky Ground (Part 2 in a series on fracking)

By Jonathan Barnes

Because of the Feb. 27 quake and others in the area around Greenbrier, Sam Lane, a 29-year-old electronics store manager, started looking into the possible connection between fracking and earthquakes. He did his own stud

y of earthquake data and three Arkansas injection wells not far from his hometown. One of the wells had an identical pattern as the earthquakes and a second showed a strong correlation between injection occurrences and earthquakes. Experts aren’t sure if the wastewater is putting pressure on the fault, or if it is getting into the fault, Lane said.

Scientists haven’t proven a link between fracking and the 5.6 Richter earthquake that rocked the area east of Oklahoma City in early November, but some are suspicious.

“Seismicity in that region has increased dramatically. It really has skyrocketed,” said Arthur McGarr, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, CA. “If the Oklahoma earthquake turns out to be from oil or gas action, it likely will be of concern… Where there’s a lot of gas production, there’s been a notable increase in seismic activity.”

[Continue reading…]