Contamination of underground drinking water sources at a Susquehanna County natural gas drilling site has prompted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, to call for possible federal action in Marcellus Shale activity.
Casey, speaking during a teleconference Monday, said all families have a right to clean drinking water.
"I want to make sure the feds are doing everything they can," he said.
Victoria Switzer of Dimock, whose well was contaminated by methane gas believed caused by drilling operations, said the federal government should already have been involved.
"We have to hold the gas companies to a much higher standard than they are being held to," she said. "I would like to see the EPA involved."
Casey said at this point he's not sure what the EPA legally can do, but wants to ensure the federal agency knows what is occurring with gas drilling.
He said he wants to ensure the federal agency knows what's going on. After all, profits from drilling cannot take precedence over the health and safety of people.
Casey noted the environmental devastation that has occurred so often when removing natural resources from the Earth.
"We have to do this the right way this time," he said. "It's so fundamental to the lives of Pennsylvania families."
Switzer, who had three drill sites within the vicinity of her property, said she had warned local government officials of possible contamination several years ago.
"I don't know if people can live in a gas field. And this is a gas field," she said. "We've lost our drinking water."
DEP ordered Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. to halt drilling in Dimock after some 14 residential water wells were contaminated with methane gas that migrated into the wells, the result the state agency claimed, of the company's drilling activities in the area. Cabot also was fined $240,000 and required to install permanent water treatment systems in the affected homes.
Casey's sponsorship of legislation known as the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act would amend the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Provisions call for repealing the exemption from restrictions on underground injection of fluids near drinking water sources granted to hydraulic fracturing operations. In addition, it calls for oil and gas companies to disclose chemicals used in such operations.
Casey said the bill is about regulation and disclosure.
"People need to know what's being injected into the ground to release natural gas. That's one reason we need to pass the FRAC Act."
About 3 million state residents depend on private wells for water, he noted.