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PA Levies Record Fine Against Chesapeake for Water Well Contamination from Gas Drilling

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June 7, 2011

Contamination of Bradford County drinking water supplies with natural gas from drilling operations has prompted Pennsylvania regulators to levy the largest fine in history against Chesapeake Energy.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has fined Chesapeake $900,000 for the natural gas contamination of private water wells after investigating complaints from Bradford County residents in Tuscarora, Terry, Monroe, Towanda and Wilmot townships and finding improper casing and cementing of Chesapeake’s natural gas wells were to blame.

According to the DEP, Chesapeake’s faulty well casings allowed natural gas migration into groundwater that contaminated the drinking water supplies of sixteen families.

Gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have been blamed for water supply contamination in Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, Colorado and other states across the nation.

According to the Scientific American, a new study confirms that fracking is polluting our drinking water.

Chesapeake has agreed to pay a total of $1,088,000 for violations related to their natural gas drilling operations under a Consent Order and Agreement (COA) with the DEP. In addition to $900,000 for water well contamination, the company will pay $188,000 for improper handling and management of natural gas condensate resulting in a tank fire at its drilling site in Avella, Washington County that injured three workers.

The company agreed to take measures to prevent faulty well casings in the future and submit to the DEP a remediation plan to fix the Bradford County water supplies.

“It is important to me and to this administration that natural gas drillers are stewards of the environment, take very seriously their responsibilities to comply with our regulations, and that their actions do not risk public health and safety or the environment,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “The water well contamination fine is the largest single penalty DEP has ever assessed against an oil and gas operator, and the Avella tank fire penalty is the highest we could assess under the Oil and Gas Act. Our message to drillers and to the public is clear.