Professional Responsibility and Disclosure at Marcellus Shale
By Don Keer, PE
MDCSystems® Consulting Engineer
In September 2012 the Technical Director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Bureau of Laboratories testified in a deposition that the office had only reported 8 of 24 metals found in a water sample associated with a case over well water contamination by hydraulic fracturing (frack) chemicals. What are the requirements for disclosure and professional responsibility of the director for disclosure of the lab results?
The case is a dispute between seven residents of Washington County, PA and Range Resources plus over a dozen contractors over alleged contamination of local drinking water wells with chemicals used in fracking. Samples were taken in June 2011 and January 2012 and analyzed in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Method 200.7 which tests for 24 metals. The Technical Director points out that only 8 metal results were requested by the Oil and Gas Division and the other results were not above the EPA standards for safe drinking water.
This dispute follows allegations that test results reported to the DEP in September 2011 by Range omitted high concentrations of nitrate (a carcinogen which can originate in fertilizer run off, septic tank overflow as well as frack operations) plus fracking fluid, flowback water, uranium and silicon. The site in question is part of a Congressionally mandated $1.9 million study scheduled for completion in 2014.
It must be noted that the named plaintiff operates a junkyard on his property which could be the source of a number of the contaminants. Studies by Penn State University indicate that contamination of certain metals in municipal biosolids are 100 to 100,000 times higher than shale gas waters. This situation complicated the causation issue and blurs the ability to provide a definitive answer to the source of contamination
Meet the MDC® Expert:
E. Mitchell Swann, PE, FCIBSE, LEED AP
MDCSystems® Consulting Engineer
In Mitch Swann’s 30 years of experience in the industry, he has worked in a number of firm configurations and arrangements including architecture/engineering consultants, engineering/architecture consultants, engineering/design-building firms and engineer/procure/construct organizations. His work has encompassed commercial, industrial and institutional clients in the US and abroad with an emphasis on mechanical and control systems engineering including numerous projects in high-tech industries and critical facilities.
Since joining MDCSystems® in 1998, he has also provided consulting services on forensic engineering, forensic project management and construction claims assignments for a wide array of clients. He brings his design and construction skill set to the building diagnostics and trouble-shooting existing operations. and operations. Having seen the good, the bad and the ugly of project execution, Mitch can provide seasoned guidance on project strategies and risk mitigation – both at the project management level and the technical approach level.
In addition to keeping busy at work, Mr. Swann is active both in the engineering profession and in other pursuits. He is currently the President of the Engineers Club of Philadelphia, and is active on several Technical Committees within ASHRAE* including TC 9.11 – Cleanrooms, TC 9.10 – Laboratories, TC 7.2 – Design-Build, TC 7.1 – Integrated Building Design, TC 2.8 – “Green Buildings” and TC 1.7 – Business and Legal Education. He has been a contributing author to ASHRAE’s “Survival Guide to Design-Build”, ASHRAE’s “Green Guide” and several Chapters in ASHRAE’s Technical Handbooks. He has been on ASHRAE’s Distinguished Lecturer roster since 2005 and speaks frequently both in the US and abroad.
On a personal front, Mitch exercises his love of music and art (including a 4000 CD music collection) as a Board Member of the Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia) and of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and dedication to civic engagement as a Board member, and former Chair, of The Enterprise Center Community Development Corp. So he’s got both the left and right brain in operation as the situation requires.