Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why the call for water testing can be a trap

If you've been reading my blog, you will know I recently reported that Binghamton's drinking water is AT RISK of contamination from drilling operations upstream in Pennsylvania:
  • 98 PA unconventional gas wells on average ~20mi upstream of Binghamton's water intake
  • if each of those 98 have been completed, then by a simple numerical analysis using nominal industry data, this means that 8,500 tons of chemicals have been injected into those wells.
  • 6% of all well casing fail initially leading to methane migration, many more (all?) over time.
  • There have been at least 6 known contamination incidents in that area. (multiple Laser Pipeline drilling blowouts, Depue 8H, Heavenly Angles restaurant, black water in Great Bend)

Upon hearing this, many people respond by saying, "Has the water been tested"?

Whenever the call for testing come out, I feel a need to point out this---

While YES water testing seems necessary to detect contamination
(what type? how much? what was the source? etc)

The call for testing contains several potential traps.

First we note that whenever  there is a report of contamination,
the gas industry calls for testing! So we should understand why this is so:
  • If we are not looking when the spill is there, then no test = no positive
  • If we check after the spill has passed = no positive
  • All tests have a certain rate of false negatives = no positive
  • Broad spectrum water testing is extremely expensive. If we are not testing for the right things = no positive.
  • EVEN IF WE GET a positive result, gas industry will endlessly challenge it.  (e.g., Pavilion WY and Dimock PA)
  • EVEN IF WE GET a positive result, this means the water is already contaminated!! TOO LATE!
Here are the BOTTOM LINE facts about scientific proof, and water testing:
  1. If someone dies, it is extremely difficult to say water poisoning was the cause.
  2. If the water is truly contaminated, it is potentially EXTREMELY DIFFICULT and costly to prove this, to show this. The industry knows this! This is why they love water testing!
  3. The water must be extremely contaminated to be able to see this easily on most common tests. 
  4. If the water test is positive for poisons, the industry will make many wild claims.

    It was always like that! The scientist is a crackpot! The victims just want money! Formaldehyde is GOOD FOR YOU! It wasn't from fracking, it was really from (----)!

So what I am calling for is a moratorium on drilling in ANY NY watershed based on the precautionary principle and the facts which I've outlined here.

We DO NOT NEED to wait for a water test to come back positive for chemical contamination to say that unconventional drilling within the watershed region of a city of 47,000 people is a BAD IDEA... :)

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