Monday, November 26, 2012

Gannett Misleads (again): Binghamton Water Testing Proves Nothing

 Link to this:

PHOTO: If Curly can’t see the room, does this mean the room does not exist?
Or maybe his eyes are just closed?

Gannett Misleads (again): Binghamton Water Testing Proves Nothing

Back at the end of August-early September, I learned about the shocking truth-- that there are 98 unconventional gas wells located WITHIN the headwaters region, an average of 13-20 miles upstream of the intake for the water supply of a city of 47,000 people, Binghamton NY.

These wells are notorious for leaking, and there are multiple incidents of KNOWN LEAKS and other reports of WATER CONTAMINATION which have already occurred within this area, about ~270 square miles in PA where drilling is occurring now, mostly in Susquehanna County.

Amazingly, there was NOTHING in the "newspaper of record" for our region, the Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin.

Let the facts be known: This is my story. I did the research, I put it all together, and I waged a month-long campaign to get this story printed in the newspaper.  Additionally, I have submitted several letters to the editor about this issues to the Press. None have been printed.

After 30 days, the PSB finally printed an article, fairly good, but missing a few key facts. And their headline writer was trying to spin it from the beginning: "No signs Pennsylvania drilling has impacted city water" (10/6/2012).

Now nearly 3 months after my initial blog posting, they again are spinning the facts, painting a rosy picture, drawing incorrect conclusions from an inadequate test, without counterpoint or meaningful analysis.

Since it was my story, I think it would have been nice if Steve Reilly would have called me for my response before printing this article.  He did not.

"Testing clears Binghamton water of fracking impact": Oh Really?

Let's look a little deeper...

On Saturday, three nearly identical articles in regional Gannett papers, all with the same headline:
"Testing clears Binghamton water of fracking impact"
First let's note that Satudays tend to be the paper with the lowest readership. So printing a story on Saturday is one way to bury it.

Headline is Incorrect
This is why a basic knowledge of science and logic is important.  
 The test is simply negative. This test does not prove anything. Looks like this test was designed to detect nothing.

First, review the history of this story.

The Press and Sun (Gannett) stalled for nearly an entire month reporting this story. Jeff Platsky notably told me repeatedly (first anonymously), the fact there are 98 Unconventional Gas Wells WITHIN the headwaters of Binghamton's headwaters "is not news". 

You cannot prove a negative with one negative test result

Logic question:

I lose my glasses somewhere in the house. I search in the kitchen, because there is good light there. I don't find my glasses. Can I declare "my glasses are not in the house"?  NO! I did not do an exhaustive search.

I am trying to find a rare bird, only reported to have been seen once in Binghamton. I look outdoors once, in my favorite tree, and I do not see the bird. Can I declare: The bird does not exist? NO! I did not do a thorough search.

While a positive test result might prove that poisons exist in the river,
one negative test result does not prove that there are no poisons in the river.

We didn't find what we weren't looking for.
Plus, our eyes were closed!

First, four of the things tested for are GASSES at room temperature: Butane, Ethane, Propane and Methane. These may be dissolved in water from local wells, but by the time it enters the river and is agitated the 13-20 miles to Binghamton, these gasses would have escaped, like shaking a bottle of soda causes the dissolved gasses to escape.

There was only ONE metal tested for, Strontium, and it did show elevated levels.

The PA DEP in their "Suite Code 942" tests for all of these metals when looking for contamination from Marcellus wells: Barium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Sodium and StrontiumWhy were all of these not tested for? 

Additionally, the EPA tests for these heavy metalsSilver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron

Why didn't Mayor Ryan order a test which would reveal presence of any of these heavy metals?

Also, of grave concern are organic compounds and hydrocarbons.  Why were these not tested for?

It looks to me this test was ordered to produce a result which "looks good" but which does not really ensure that Binghamton's water is genuinely safe.

Why the call for Water Testing can be a trap

Earlier, we told you why you should be skeptical for the call for water testing:

In summary:
  • 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)
And here's the worst one of all:
  • EVEN IF WE GET a positive result, this means the water is already contaminated!! TOO LATE!
We need Precautionary Action NOW -- BEFORE there is proof of poisons in the water!

While I applaud Mayor Ryan for ordering this test, it is not enough. This is an extremely difficult predicament for him, as Mayor of Binghamton, because he certainly does not want the crisis on his hands of a contaminated water supply.

Compounding the difficulty of the problem, is the fact that the problem exists in a different state. Mayor Ryan does not have any official jurisdiction in PA.

We need the DOH and the NY DEC to take the lead in this investigation, and we need CONTINUOUS and EXHAUSTIVE monitoring of Binghamton's water supply, because the presence of these 98 unconventional gas wells indicates a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER to Binghamton water quality.

No comments: