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DEP Halts Drilling and Fracking of 36 Wells after Contamination of Residential Water Supplies

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April 4, 2011

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has ordered Catalyst Energy Inc. to cease drilling and hydraulic fracturing at 36 wells in Forest County after the agency determined that the company’s operations have contaminated the well water supplies of area residents.

The DEP received complaints of an odor and cloudy appearance of the water at two homes in the Yellow Hammer area of Hickory Township after Catalyst Energy recently drilled 22 of its 36 non-Marcellus well permits in the neighborhood. All of the oil/gas combination wells, having an average of depth of 1,500 to 3,000, lie within 2,500 feet of the two affected residences. In response to the complaints, the DEP issued two violations, one on February 10 and another on March 1, for groundwater contamination.

Near the end of March, a follow-up investigation of the homes’ water wells by the DEP found contamination with elevated levels of iron and manganese, and natural gas both above the water surface and dissolved into the water.

“In addition to its investigation and the obligation to stop all drilling and hydro-fracturing in Yellow Hammer, Catalyst must immediately provide temporary whole-house water systems to the two affected homes,” said the DEP release. “Catalyst must either permanently restore or replace the water supplies by July 1.”

A new law requires that Catalyst Energy determine which well or wells are responsible for the natural gas migration and report the investigation’s progress to the DEP every ten days.

“It is the goal of Catalyst Energy Inc. to make every effort to comply with all state and federal regulations for the protection of our environment,” the Catalyst Energy website states about its environmental policy. “Catalyst uses what the DEP considers to be “best management practices.”