are injected underground, often in close proximity to underground sources of drinking water. It is the highly variable and unpredictable nature of the process that can lead to the contamination of ground water and drinking water that is of great concern to me.
Every day I hear from Pennsylvanians who worry about their future access to safe drinking water. The protection of underground water sources is especially important to Pennsylvania because we have the second highest number of private drinking water wells in the Nation; three million Pennsylvanians are dependent on private wells to provide safe drinking water to their homes.
Therefore, I urge EPA to examine its authority to determine whether it can take additional steps in Pennsylvania to investigate and respond to groundwater contamination and other potentially harmful consequences of drilling. I request a meeting with you and appropriate EPA officials to discuss natural gas drilling and whether EPA could launch an investigation into water and environmental contamination. Further, I wholeheartedly commend EPA for undertaking a congressionally mandated study on hydraulic fracturing, and note that the initial information I have seen on the scope of the study is encouraging. I would also hope to speak with Science Advisory Board officials during the requested meeting in order to have the opportunity to discuss the scope, timing and methodology for the study and to ensure that EPA addresses all issues critical to Pennsylvania.
The reasons for requesting greater EPA involvement in Pennsylvania are many. Recent incidents in the State raise the question of whether the necessary steps have been taken to protect Pennsylvania families and communities against the detrimental side effects of drilling. For example, methane gas has infiltrated the private drinking wells of 14 families in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The intrusion has contaminated the underground source of drinking water and reduced property values in the area. Several drinking water wells have exploded due to a suspected buildup of natural gas and many wells have been found to contain so much natural gas that one homeowner was advised to open a window if he plans to take a bath.
In September 2009, there was also a surface water contamination incident in the same area. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid leaked from a pipe at a drill site and contaminated the surrounding area and a wetland in Susquehanna County. There were two separate spills on the same day. The first spill in the afternoon leaked 25 to 50 barrels of hydraulic fracturing fluid and the second spill in the evening leaked 140 barrels.
In regard to the underground water contamination with methane, Pennsylvania DEP recently executed a consent decree and agreement that Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation failed to adequately protect the affected homeowners in Susquehanna County and must take further steps to remedy the situation. DEP fined Cabot $240,000, ordered the plugging of three wells believed to be the source of the contamination, prohibited drilling