DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The EPA ordered a Fort Worth natural gas company Tuesday to supply homeowners near a Parker County drilling site with gas monitors and drinking water after an investigation found high levels of methane in the residents’ tap water.
The Environmental Protection Agency received a homeowner’s complaint in August that expressed concern that their private drinking water well had been contaminated with methane by a Range Resources hydraulic fracturing drilling site.
“The homeowner had previously complained to the Texas Railroad Commission as well as the company, but their concerns were not adequately addressed by the State or the company,” read a news released issued Tuesday afternoon.
EPA officials collected water and gas samples, which were sent to a lab for analysis. They found samples in the water that matched the chemicals from the drilling site, the release said.
Currently there are only two drinking water wells that were contaminated, though nearby residents are asked to notify the EPA if their drinking water begins to change colors or if their water wells seize up. This is the first time the EPA has issued a warning on fracking in the Barnett Shale.
“Our primary concern is a concern about a fire or explosion of natural gas if it were to enter these homes and escape from the plumbing and into a closet could start an explosion or cause a fire,” said Al Armendariz, an EPA Regional Administrator. “This is the first time we are taking this action.”
In addition to a full-scale in-house investigation, Range Resources was ordered to deliver drinking water to the two residences in question; sample soil for gas near the residences; sample all drinking water wells to “determine the extent of aquifer contamination;” give homeowners methane gas monitors; and develop a plan to fix any contaminated aquifers.
“EPA believes that natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy future, and the process known as hydraulic fracturing is one way of accessing that vital resource,” the release said. “However, we want to make sure natural gas development is safe.”
In an email, Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range Resources, said the company’s “activities have no connection to the methane found in the water well.”
Pitzarella added that the company has cooperated with the Texas Railroad Commission for several months, and the methane likely comes from shallow gas formations that formed just below the water table. Something that Range Resources did not cause, he added.
“We are committed to being responsible, accountable and transparent with all aspects of our work and no one wants to make sure this is done right more than we do,” Pitzarella said.