Wednesday, September 20, 2023

DEP: Widespread Presence Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Fresh Water Leading Shale Gas Operators To Use Contaminated Water In Fracking Operations; DEP Doesn’t Require Routine PFAS Testing

In an
April 2023 DEP determination of whether natural gas drilling contaminated a Washington County family’s water well, DEP said the “widespread presence of PFAS” forever chemicals in fresh water may have led to “inadvertently” using contaminated water to frack a shale gas well.

But, DEP concluded the use of contaminated water did not result in polluting the water well with PFAS chemicals.

The determination involved a water well owned by Bryan Latkanich near Fredericktown, Washington County that was approximately 500 feet away and down-gradient from two shale gas wells on a pad originally developed by Chevron Appalachia, but now owned by EQT CHAP, LLC, a subsidiary of EQT Corporation.

The shale gas wells were drilled and fracked between September 2011 and August 2012.

Lisa Johnson, the attorney representing Latkanich said, “It was news to me that the Department is admitting that there's a widespread presence of PFAS in public water sources. 

“I don't think that's something that the public is necessarily aware of, particularly with respect to the limited set of data, limited testing, that the Department has done. I thought that was pretty surprising that they had put that in this letter,” Johnson said.

The Latkanich’s original water well complaint alleged oil and gas drilling on his property contaminated the Latkanich well with PFAS “forever chemicals” and did not adequately address possible radioactive contamination.

On May 8, Latkanich appealed DEP’s determination that his family’s private water supply was not impacted by oil and gas development on his farm to the Environmental Hearing Board.  [Docket #2023043]

PFAS Contamination

“I'm not aware of any requirement that [oil and gas well] operators have to test their freshwater sources before use,” said Johnson. “Brian, and other, especially rural landowners, live in places where there were never PFAS.

“I don't know how many wells there are now in Pennsylvania taking this water and basically introducing it into rural areas where people previously had clean drinking water in their private water wells,” said Johnson.

In its determination, DEP said, “[A] review of records did indicate that fresh water was used in the fluid mixture for stimulation activity on the Latkanich [property] unconventional [gas] wells. 

“This fresh water was obtained from multiple sources including municipal water authorities, which source surface water from the Monongahela River, Youghiogheny River and/or Tenmile Creek. 

“PFAS chemicals are not found naturally in the environment, but have been extensively produced for use in cookware, carpeting, personal care products, plastic pipes, firefighting foams, industrial processes, clothing and other fabrics, food packaging and other materials for water, grease or stain resistance. 

“Because that widespread use has come into contact with the natural environment for decades, PFAS chemicals have been detected in groundwater and surface water in various parts of the world, including rivers in Southwest Pennsylvania and water from some Pennsylvania public water supplies.”

“Review of sample results from sampling conducted on surface water sources across Pennsylvania by the United States Geological Survey in summer 2019, indicated that PFAS was identified at several locations on the Monongahela and Youghiogheny Rivers and Tenmile Creek.”  Read more here on USGS/DEP study.   Read more here about DEP follow up.

DEP continued, “Based upon the widespread presence of PFAS in these freshwater sources, PFAS-containing water may have inadvertently been used on the well pad during stimulation. 

“No indication of an incident during fracturing was identified that would cause a release to groundwater, but because the Water Supply is located downgradient of the well site, an impact from surface spills is possible.”

The appeal filed by Latkanich, however, cites numerous notices of violations for spills  and releases at the Chevron/EQT drill pad and for improper disposal of fluids at three onsite impoundments on the site.  [Paragraphs 25 - 36]

Latkanich provided DEP with water well test results as recently as 2019 and 2023 from the University of Pittsburgh and an investigation by Environmental Health News showing chemicals consistent with fracking operations and PFAS contamination.

Testing results from the University of Pittsburgh found PFAS in the water well and other locations in the Latkanich home.  DEP disregarded the sample results because the samples were not analyzed by an accredited laboratory.

Johnson noted the Environmental Health News test results “were not considered or included in their determination letter.”

DEP’s own sample results showed the presence of PFOS and related chemicals, but they were below the DEP drinking water maximum contaminant level.

Johnson said DEP’s letter of determination does not say whether DEP directly asked if Chevron used PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ at the drilling site in 2011-2012, but the Department  instead stated it relied on a “review of documents related to the well site.”  

In July 2021, Physicians for Social Responsibility reported PFAS chemicals were used by Chevron in fracking unconventional shale gas wells between 2012 and 2020.  Read more here.

The information compiled by Physicians for Social Responsibility also noted wastewater containing PFAS from Pennsylvania shale gas wells was shipped to Ohio disposal facilities.  Read more here.

The appeal filed by Latkanich said Chevron sent waste from its drilling operation on the Latkanich property, including sludge, to the AMS Martins Ferry Facility in Ohio, wastewater for reuse at well sites in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and reported road spreading it in Crawford County, all of which could have contained PFAS chemicals, but they were never tested.  [See Paragraph 71 in appeal.]

Penn State research released in October 2022 found PFAS chemicals typically persist through public wastewater treatment systems at levels that may impact the long-term feasibility of beneficial reuse of treated wastewater.  Read more here.

In December 2019, Gov. Wolf’s PFAS Action Team Report noted there is a concern wastewater plant sewage sludge also contains PFAS and policies are needed to properly manage this waste.  Read more here.

Similar concerns would be present in oil and gas waste treatment facilities.

An October 2014 DEP memo still in use today by the Oil and Gas Program and by the Act 2 Land Recycling Program spells out the chemicals and other constituents oil and gas operators and DEP test for during investigations and cleanups of spills and releases.

It does not include requiring an analysis for PFAS/PFOA ‘forever chemicals” [or radium-226, radium-228 or radon].

Air sampling was also performed at the Latkanich home showed potentially harmful chemicals and an optical gas imaging “FLIR” camera captured emissions coming from the well site in 2019.

Both Latkanich and his son Ryan are suffering from adverse health affections they blame on living next to the shale gas wells.  [See paragraph 78-98 of EHB appeal.]


The Latkanich appeal of DEP’s letter of determination has identified gaps in DEP’s investigation and Act 2 cleanup protocols that do not routinely require testing for PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ or for radium-226, radium-228, radon and radioactivity generally.

In spite of these problems and the real concerns over the health impacts on the Latkanich Family, Lisa Johnson remains optimistic.

“I've been doing this for not as long as many people, but I'm optimistic. I have to tell you, the relationships with the DEP attorneys have greatly improved,” said Johnson.  “And I look forward to the department living up to its mission, and not just acting as a partner to industry, but as a partner to residents and figuring out the pollution that's affecting their lives.”

Click Here for all documents related to this EHB appeal.

Contact Lisa Johnson, Esq., 1800 Murray Ave., #81728, Pittsburgh, PA 15217, (412) 913-8583 or for more information on this case.

Follow the progress of this case through the new Environmental Hearing Board Twitter feed.

[Note: The Department of Environmental Protection does not comment on matters in litigation.]

(Read this entire article originally published by PA Environment Digest on May 10, 2023.)

(Photo: The Latkanich property and Chevron/EQT well pad.  Impoundments have since been removed.)

(Written by David Hess, former Secretary, PA Department of Environmental Protection.  Send comments to:

Resources Links:

-- October 3, 2014 Memo: Common Constituents For Oil And Gas-Related Spills And Releases

-- November 20, 2021: Final Regulation Setting PFOA/PFOS/PFBS Cleanup Standards Under Act 2 Land Recycling Program

-- June 11, 2022: Guidance Document On Radioactivity Monitoring At Solid Waste Processing And Disposal Facilities

-- Environmental Quality Board Publishes Final Reg. Setting PFOA/PFOS Drinking Water Standard And The First MCL Developed By DEP  [PaEN January 2023]

NewsClips - PFAS Study:

-- Inquirer - Frank Kummer: PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found In 76% Of 161 PA Streams Sampled In USGS Study

-- Erie Times - Brian Whipkey: PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found In 76% Of PA Streams Sampled, Including One Near You

-- Beaver County Times: Researchers Detect PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Beaver County Waterways

-- WHYY: More Than 70% Of PA’s Rivers, Streams Contain PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’

-- Huntingdon Daily News: PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found In Little Juniata River

-- Warren Times: PFAS ‘Forever Chemical’ Ban, Testing Proposed

-- Altoona Mirror: Martinsburg Files Federal Lawsuit Against Chemical Companies For PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Contamination Of Borough’s Water Supply

-- Inquirer: Why Worries About PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ And Injuries Might Push NFL To Ditch Artificial Turf

-- WITF/AP: Firefighters Fear PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Their Gear Could Be Contributing To Rising Cancer Cases

Related Articles - PFAS Chemicals:

-- Attorney General Henry Files Civil Complaint Against DuPont And Affiliates For Manufacture Of PFAS 'Forever Chemicals,' Seeks Payment For Cleanup Costs  [PaEN]

-- Acting Attorney General Henry, Other State AGs Urge EPA To Close Reporting Loopholes For PFAS Chemicals  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Widespread Presence Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Fresh Water May Have Led To ‘Inadvertently’ Using Contaminated Water For Fracking Gas Wells In Washington County  [PaEN]

-- Legislative Report On Proposed Changes To Biosolids Permits Finds No Approved Method Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemical' Testing, No Standards For PFAS In Biosolids; DEP Says Changes Needed To Protect Health, Environment  [PaEN]

-- Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Files Citizen Suit Against York County Landfill For Federal Clean Water Act Violations, Including PFAS Contamination  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Research: PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' Persist Through Wastewater Treatment, May Enter Crops  [PaEN]

-- Penn State Extension: Testing, Treating For PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' In PA Water Wells  [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Sept. 16 to 22 -  2nd Abandoned Shale Gas Well Pad?  5 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; Failure To Comply With Order  [PaEN] 

-- DEP Issues NOVs To Roulette Oil & Gas LLC For Abandoning Another Conventional Well In Potter County; Roulette Applying For Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well Permit  [PaEN]

-- Petro Erie, Inc. Appeals 2nd DEP Order Requiring The Operator To Restore The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply Contaminated By A Spill Of Conventional Oil Well Wastewater In Venango County  [PaEN]  

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - September 23 [PaEN]  

-- DEP Posted 73 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In September 23 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  


-- Pittsburgh Business Times: Senators To Introduce Bill To Increase Setbacks On Gas Drilling

-- Marcellus Shale Gas Coalition Lobbyist Responds To Health Concerns Raised In Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial - ‘Fracking Is Making Pennsylvanians Sick, Lawmakers Must Act

-- Tribune-Democrat Guest Editorial: Natural Gas Development Making Pennsylvanians Sick, Lawmakers Must Act

-- What It’s Like To Raise A Family In The Most Fracked County In PA - Washington County: PA Physicians For Social Responsibility [Video]

-- Uncontrolled Natural Gas Emissions From Equitrans Steelhead Compressor Station, Washington County: PA Physicians For Social Responsibility [Video]

-- The Allegheny Front: ‘Ezell: Ballad Of A Land Man’ Performance About Fracking And Belonging Coming To Pittsburgh

-- The Derrick - Makayla Keating: Petro Erie Appeals DEP July Order To Clean Up Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County  [PDF of Article]

-- Inside Climate News: EPA Approves Permit For Oil, Gas Wastewater Injection Well In Plum Boro, Allegheny County

-- TribLive Guest Essay: EPA/DOE Money Should Be Spent Wisely On Plugging Conventional Oil & Gas Wells - By Russell Zerbo, Clean Air Council

-- StateImpactPA - Rachel McDevitt: IFO Report: PA Natural Gas Prices Down, Shale Gas Drilling Falls

-- Reuters: US Energy Regulator Recommends Revising Reliability Standards For Natural Gas, Power Grid Infrastructure During Extreme Weather

-- Utility Dive: Record 13% Of Eastern US Electric Generation Capacity Failed - 63% Natural Gas-Fired During Winter Storm Elliott  [70% In PJM Were Natural Gas Failures]

-- PUC Responds To NTSB Actions Regarding Reading Factory Natural Gas Explosion

-- Post-Gazette - Ford Turner: NTSB Kicks PUC Out Of Investigation Into Deadly Natural Gas Explosion At A Chocolate Factory In Reading

-- Reading Eagle: West Reading Chocolate Factory Explosion: Feds Demand PUC Hand Over UGI Inspection Reports

-- AP: NTSB Investigators Subpoena PUC Records Related To Reading Factory Natural Gas Explosion

-- PennLive: Lancaster County House Explosion Leaves 1 Man Dead: Police

-- MCall: Natural Gas Leak In Lehigh Valley Prompts Brief Shelter-In-Place Order Wednesday

-- The Allegheny Front: Ohio Commission Delays Vote On Shale Gas Fracking Under State Parks During Raucous Meeting

-- TruthDig - Justin Nobel: Abandoned Radioactive Oil, Gas Wastewater Treatment Facility Has Become A Party Spot In Marion County, West Virginia

-- WTRF: Marshall County, WV Emergency Director Confirms Oil Well Pad Fire Has Been Extinguished

Related Articles This Week:

-- Senators Santarsiero, Comitta To Introduce Bill Increasing Setback Safety Zones From Shale Natural Gas Drilling Sites From 500 To 2,500 Feet, Based On Latest Science  [PaEN]

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 8 Shale Gas Drilling Water Withdrawals - 1 In Exceptional Value Loyalsock Creek, Home To The Hellbender  [PaEN] 

-- Susquehanna River Basin Commission Approves 34 Shale Gas Well Pad Water Use General Permits In  Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga Counties  [PaEN] 

-- Game Commission Board OKs More Shale Gas Drilling In Lycoming County, Home To The Hellbender, And Sullivan County  [PaEN]

-- EPA Approves Permit For Oil, Gas Wastewater Injection Well In Plum Boro, Allegheny County; 30 Days To File Appeal  [PaEN]

-- DEP To Increase Monitoring, Develop Surface Water Standard For PFAS 'Forever Chemicals' After Study Shows 76% Of Streams, Rivers Contained At Least One Of These Chemicals  [PaEN]

-- DEP: Widespread Presence Of PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ In Fresh Water Leading Shale Gas Operators To Use Contaminated Water In Fracking Operations; DEP Doesn’t Require Routine PFAS Testing  [PaEN]

-- DEP Hears Concerns, Some Support From Water Resources Committee On Draft Reg. On Reporting Unauthorized Spills, Releases  [PaEN]

-- House Environmental Committee Meets Sept. 26 On Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium Bill [PaEN]

-- Dickinson College Will Host An Evening With Environmental & Indigenous Rights Advocate Tara Houska On Her Groundbreaking Advocacy Work Oct. 4  [PaEN]

-- FracTracker Alliance Now Accepting Nominations For 2023 Community Sentinel Award  [PaEN] 

-- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, NERC Final Report On Winter Storm Elliott Says Legislative Action Needed To Establish Reliability Rules For Natural Gas Infrastructure  [PaEN]

-- PUC To Seek Public Comment On Proposed $100,000 Penalty Settlement With Mifflin Energy Corp. For Natural Gas Explosion Destroying Home/Business In Greene County  [PaEN]

[Posted: September 20, 2023]  PA Environmental Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner