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DEP Orders Drilling Company To Clean Up Water Supply In Stahlstown

STAHLSTOWN (KDKA) -- The Department of Environmental Protection has put a drilling company on notice after drinking water was contaminated by gas drilling wastewater in Westmoreland County.

For some of the folks living in Stahlstown, clean water was never a problem; their wells produced it. But then another kind of well was drilled nearby, and now they say their water is polluted.

Ken Geary, 81, says he lives in some beautiful country. His only suggestion is, don't drink the water.

"It stinks, stinks real bad, and you can't drink it," says Geary.

Geary is one of a handful of residents who says his water became polluted when WPX Appalachia put a well pad in nearby.

"I had good water before they messed around," he says.

"We know what was in the impoundment, and we can trace those same contaminants to the families' water supplies," Nick Kennedy, of the Mountain Watershed Association, said

The DEP says water tests show high levels of chloride, barium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and strontium in the water supply to Geary and at least two other neighbors.

The DEP has ordered WPX to reinstate Geary's water service.

Regarding that, WPX spokeswoman Susan Oliver said, "The investigation is ongoing and the process has been thorough. The company is providing water. At no time have the families been without drinking water."

Here is WPX Energy's full statement: "As we learned of the water concern from three of our neighbors individually, we began working with each family and the DEP to provide fresh water for their use at our expense, and began an investigation with the DEP. We understand the process can be lengthy as there is litigation and scientific testing involved, and we know this can be frustrating, but at no time were the families without fresh water once we learned of their situations. There is an attorney working with a local activist group that wants to litigate this situation in the media but there is a judicial process and a scientific investigation plan underway, and we will respect and follow those two processes. We continue to work cooperatively and openly with the DEP and the families involved as we continue the scientific investigation, and we will continue to provide fresh water to the three families at our expense as we move through this process. Our goal is to provide a permanent water solution for the three families."

"They're giving them temporary water right now. So that would be water buffaloes and bottled water to the families. But that's not a permanent source," says Kennedy.

Meanwhile, the DEP issued a statement saying the company must comply with the order.

"If WPX fails to comply with this order, it will result in enforcement actions, which could include an immediate [permit] freeze until the issue is addressed," says DEP officials.

Until then, Geary and neighbors have to wait for a truck to bring in what nature gave them for decades.

"I've been living here over 50 years. Had five kids, we had good water," he says.

The gas company has an option. They can appeal the DEP's order to restore Geary's water supply to its original state, but they must do it in the next 30 days.

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