SRBC Report Says Water Quality Is Good and DRBC Ignores

Tom Shepstone
Natural Gas NOW


Yet another SRBC report on water quality indicates fracking is safe. So, why does the DRBC pretend otherwise? They’re a rotten politicians on a mission.

The politicians who govern the DRBC are, largely, the same ones governing the SRBC. A SRBC report just indicated, yet again, they have no evidence gas drilling has impacted water quality in the Susquehanna River Basin. But, they want us to believe it would somehow be different in the Delaware River Basin. They are studiously ignoring the evidence right before their eyes, pretending it doesn’t exist. Why? Because they’re on a mission to appease powerful special interests who couldn’t care less what happens economically to the people of the Upper Delaware region; they want it all as parkland.

SRBC Report

Every year this SRBC report comes out and says water quality is unaffected by gas drilling and every year the DRBC Commissioners from Pennsylvania, New York and the Federal government, even though they serve on the SRBC, deep-six it as if it didn’t matter, spinning “well, that’s different” scenarios with turned heads and eyes averted downward. Their body language says it all; they’re lying, they know they’re lying and they can’t face up to their lies because they know it’s all pure politics.

But, we’re not about to let them forget, ignore and pretend. We’re going to shove these annual SRBC reports down their throats in court if they ever follow through on their proposed fracking ban. We’ll also keep embarrassing them with the facts. Here are the highlights of the latest SRBC report:

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) Remote Water Quality Monitoring Network (RWQMN) began continuously measuring and reporting water quality conditions in small streams that could potentially be impacted by the natural gas industry in January 2010. Eleven of these stations are located on Pennsylvania state forest lands and five others either drain significant portions of state forest lands or are heavily drilled watersheds that flow into and through state forest lands and are of interest to PADCNR…

Specific conductivity, turbidity, and water temperature are the three continuous monitoring parameters that would likely show an immediate, real-time change if natural gas drilling activities in the Susquehanna River Basin (Basin) are leading to degraded stream conditions. Chemicals used in natural gas fracking typically have very high specific conductance and any spill or leak would raise the specific conductance of the stream.

Infrastructure (roads, pipelines, well pads, etc.) have the potential to increase the volume of sediment in surface water systems. The increased sediment will increase turbidity.

The final monitoring parameter is stream temperature. Canopy cover within a watershed shields streams from the sun and helps to maintain a cooler stream temperature. Unconventional natural gas wells are constructed on large cleared pads; in forested areas, trees must be removed to create the pad. Many stream organisms can only tolerate certain thermal regimes, so water temperature is an important parameter to track and see if temperature rises as the fragmentation of forested land continues due to natural gas development or other sources and percentage of forested lands decreases.

Average continuous parameter values for specific conductivity, turbidity, and temperature from station installation date through 2018 are listed in Table 2.

SRBC Report

Overall, the 16 stations exhibit low specific conductivity; only three stations had concentrations greater than 100 … Little PineCreek is a large watershed, and the station is downstream of a reservoir. The station on Marsh Creek is downstream of Wellsboro, PA, which has numerous permitted dischargers. Moose Creek is a small watershed (3 mi2) that is greatly impacted by Interstate Route 80. Road salt applied during the winter months enters the stream during snow melt and runoff, raising the specific conductivity…

Generally, turbidity concentrations are low across the sites and all but two sites have averages of less than 10 NTU. The highest average turbidity values are seen in Marsh Creek in Tioga County and Pine Creek (Table 2). Marsh Creek is a slow, meandering stream impacted by agriculture and urban influences. These characteristics mean that Marsh Creek takes longer to flush sediment and runoff related to a storm event. Pine Creek is a large stream, which tend to have higher turbidity values as it drains a larger area. Of the 16 stations, these two had the most variable turbidity concentrations (Figure 3). These two sites are also significantly different (α=0.05) from the other 14 sites…

The majority of the PADCNR-RWQMN stations of interest are in highly forested watersheds with ample canopy cover. Average stream temperatures were cool (Table 2) and were not significantly different from each other

A newly-developed Water Quality Index (WQI) for the Basin allows for the synthesis of water quality data into a score that is comparable over time as well as between sites (Berry et al., 2019). The WQI score is based on a 0-100 scale where the greater the number, the better the water quality. The nine parameters used in the WQI are collected with each grab sample in addition to general chemistry parameters and metals associated with natural gas drilling…

All but two sites had medians and averages in the good or excellent Tier I WQI categories. Marsh Creek in Tioga County had poor water quality and Moose Creek had fair water quality when compared to the Basin overall (Figure 45. The road salts from I-80 are elevating both chloride and sodium levels and are likely the reason this highly forested watershed falls into the fair category. Marsh Creek consistently had elevated metals and nutrient concentrations compared to the other sites on PADCNR lands. The monitoring site at Marsh Creek has the least forested lands of the state forest sites. The site drains 78 square miles, one quarter of which are agricultural lands. Additionally, inputs from 12 wastewater treatment plants and eight industrial discharges flow into Marsh Creek above the station…

Beginning in 2015, macroinvertebrates have been collected annually for EV/ HQ streams; data from the October 2015 sample of the three non-EV/HQ streams have been included to represent their communities although they are outside of the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) sample period (PADEP, 2013)…

Streams with IBIs greater than 78 are said to have excellent macroinvertebrate assemblages and streams with IBIs below 53 are considered poor (PADEP, 2013). All IBI scores for stream sampling locations from 2015-2018 were well above 53 and all sites except for Marsh Creek met the excellent benchmark.

I don’t want to hear one more damned word from the DRBC about fracking threatening water quality. This SRBC report is in its hands. There is no excuse for not paying attention. Its attempt to steal our land and mineral rights under false pretenses will be thwarted.

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7 thoughts on “SRBC Report Says Water Quality Is Good and DRBC Ignores

  1. The DRBC claims “possible” risk as their reason to ban drilling in the Basin, yet these studies show that that risk is slim to none. Industries with known risks are allowed to operate in the Basin. I am still waiting for the DRBC and Executive Director Tambini to name any other industry that has been banned in the Basin due to possible risk. The whole thing is a sham. Keep up the good work exposing the crooks.

  2. “Possible Risk” is with everything we do. It’s called life. Does “possible risk” stop us from driving our cars or plugging in a light? DRBC is simply endorsing the democrat position which is so negative toward everything. Studies mean nothing to DRBC, they are simply doing what keeps their respective well paid position by obstructing any reasonable compromise or simply following those regulations used each and every day in the Susquehanna River Basin Commission which ironically a number of them serve. Let’s face it DRBC is simply a political mouthpiece.

  3. Possible risk needs to be considered.

    We have too many reports in my fracked county that the water quality has been adversely affected in our aquifers and
    the creeks, also where fisherman tell me of changes that indicated impacts and to our sewer plants like in Great Bend.

    I understand, Tom, you were finally served with a subpoena yesterday and now need to reveal your sources and bank records of ten years and all your computer records relating to the fractivists you have maligned for years and be deposed.

    See how you handle this latest event in your life.
    Remember a bunch of us have been deposed and our depositions revealed and taken out of context and twisted and lied about.

    See how it works for you.

    • I think it’s quite fascinating that you know that, Vera. Thank you!

      But, I don’t accept your interpretation of what I must do, of course.

    • Cite and post your reports to refute the reports posted here and maybe some one will listen. I doubt it because so far in your activism you have spewed is anything but hot air.

  4. It’s all about interpretation .

    We interpret with our minds, brains, cognitive ability, emotional wiring….

    We can look at the same scene, document and get different interpretations..
    And deeply believe it is fact and truth.

    That’s why we have different camps of interpretation and beliefs in our world..

    And we join the camps that match our interpretations.

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