Lab Error Negates Findings in Well Water

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
24 November 2011
By Timothy Puko

A lab error led state researchers to mistakenly connect shale gas drilling with raised levels of bromide in well water, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, an agency of the General Assembly, said in a notice issued this week.

State-funded researchers from Penn State had recommended stronger protections for people who have drinking water wells within 3,000 feet of well operations, but now their entire report is under review, according to the center. Bromide increased in only one water well near a drill site, not seven, as first reported, the agency said.

A subcontracted lab made an error and did not update its results until after the researchers released the report, according to an "error notice" attached to the study on Tuesday.

The center apologized for the error and said it would release a revised report "in the coming weeks."

The drilling industry "is shining a bright light on long-standing issues," said Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for the drilling company Range Resources Corp. "Pennsylvania needs water well standards. And while the report indicates again that drilling is safe, that doesn't mean we focus any less on safety. Accidents can happen, but this report proves again that this is a safe industry when the rules are followed."

The researchers also found no significant statistical connections between well water contamination and methane or pollutants that come up in drilling wastewater. Several industry spokesmen had said that finding supports their claim that drilling is safe and not a danger to drinking water supplies.

Timothy Puko can be reached at or 412-320-7991.