Natural Gas NOW
Another SRBC water study indicates gas drilling is safe, raising yet again a question of why the same people pretend they don’t know what to do in the DRBC.
Almost a year ago I wrote a post here pointing out “the DRBC members, the majority of whom also serve on the SRBC, ought to spend some looking at their sister agency’s water quality data,” because the data collected did not indicate any changes in water quality as a result of gas drilling. Now, we have yet another SRBC water study showing the same thing. How much longer will the facts gathered from continuous SRBC water monitoring be ignored as the SRBC Commissioners who switch hats to become DRBC Commissioners bury their heads in the sand to avoid offending the William Penn Foundation and its attack dogs?
The latest SRBC water study offers up the following self-explanatory observations:
- Generally, the quantity of the Basin’s water resources are sufficient in magnitude to accommodate the water demands of the industry concurrently with other water users currently operating within the Basin.
- Concerns related to the impacts of water sources are focused on the timing and location of the withdrawals and are adequately addressed by the low flow protection measures and other protective operating conditions.
- To date, the Commission’s monitoring programs have not detected discernible impacts on the quality of the Basin’s water resources as a result of natural gas development, but continued vigilance is warranted.
The report calculates Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores based on a scale of 0-100 to represent “the quality of the aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblage” based on such factors as richness, diversity, and pollution tolerance. Watershed size, geology, and season are also factored into the Pennsylvania IBI score and a higher IBI score indicates a healthier macroinvertebrate community. Significantly, this latest SRBC water study concludes “withdrawals as conducted through 2012 are generally not impacting fish and macroinvertebrate assemblages to a greater magnitude than do watershed size and land use practices.” It also includes this paragraph (emphasis added):
There was no strong relationship observed between natural gas well density and Pennsylvania IBI scores for 2011, 2012, or 2013 (Figure 18), with the spacing between the different parts of the boxes showing a high degree of dispersion regardless of what well density gradient is considered. Well density was not a good predictor of macroinvertebrate IBI scores. In watersheds with no natural gas well drilling occurring upstream of the monitoring points, IBI scores ranged from 29 to 100, which represents the lowest and highest IBI scores observed throughout the entire three years of sampling. As a result of the low sample size (n=2) in the greater than 2.5 wells per square mile group, even a small change at either of the two sites can cause a large shift in the box plot. Therefore, those results should be considered with that limitation in mind. More than 30 percent of all macroinvertebrate samples collected for the RWQMN project through 2013 were in watersheds where no natural gas wells have been drilled. Box plots constructed with existing data show no significant difference between IBI scores at sites with zero gas wells per square mile and those that have some degree of gas well development, even up to 3.7 wells per square mile.
The SRBC has an excellent and continuous water quality monitoring program demonstrating gas drilling and fracking are, contrary to the fear-mongering of fractivists, having none of the disastrous consequences they want us to believe are commonplace in the shale fields of Pennsylvania. We can’t expect this to matter to the fractivists – they’re zealots after all – but why are the DRBC membrs who sit on the SRBC ignoring the facts? The answer is obvious and it has zero to do with water quality or science. It’s pure politics, the politics of the William Penn Foundation that has simultaneously funded the Delaware Povertykeeper a/k/a Riverkeeper and the DRBC. It’s shameful and it’s deprived the residents of the Upper Delaware of hundreds of millions of dollars of much needed economic activity.