Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

We Are Still Waiting for Dep to Answer Our Questions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

We Are Still Waiting for Dep to Answer Our Questions

Article excerpt

The Department of Environmental Protection's March 4 letter ("DEP's Staff Is Professional and Thorough") avoids the real issue at hand: How can the agency improve its policies to better protect water quality and health?

We have no doubt that many DEP employees are skilled, thorough and committed. But current gas development has environmental impacts on a scale never before seen in the commonwealth, many of which may not even be fully known.

Given this reality, it is logical to ask whether DEP's practices and resources are sufficient -- particularly since the agency's budget is now only 40 percent of what it was 10 years ago. And even with increases in penalties and inspectors, DEP can't seem to keep up -- 86 percent of oil and gas wells went uninspected in 2011 and violations by operators continue to rise faster than enforcement actions.

For the past two years, DEP has consistently tested for only about half of the 45 contaminants it could in response to suspected contamination of residential water wells -- leaving off dangerous pollutants including selenium, arsenic, mercury and chromium. …

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