Despite the enormous amount of natural gas well drilling in West Virginia and Ohio during the past few years, the two states have recorded just 10 confirmed cases of contamination of water supplies. That is a tiny percentage of the number of wells drilled.
Some would say that is an excellent record for the drilling industry. Those whose drinking water was contaminated probably would not agree.
An Associated Press analysis of water contamination complaints in four states found very few confirmed cases of water contamination. Records for West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas during the past four years were studied.
There have been about 122 complaints of contamination during the four years in West Virginia, the AP reported. In four of those situations, the evidence was compelling enough to prompt drillers to take corrective action on their own.
In Ohio, there have been 190 complaints, with six confirmed incidents of water contamination. Fourteen cases from this year are still being investigated by the state.
Again, given the hundreds of wells drilled during the four years, the record is good.
We have heard no reports of water supply contamination that were not addressed by drilling companies. In most ways, the gas industry appears to be attempting to be a good neighbor in our states.
That does not mean state officials should not take a look at whether new regulations are needed to ensure that when there are problems, the drilling industry takes care of them promptly and adequately.
Both states regulate the industry heavily and have updated their rules during recent years. Still, it would be a good idea for West Virginia and Ohio legislators to hold hearings on drilling, to hear from those who have been affected both positively and adversely by it.
If new regulations and enforcement powers are needed to ensure the drilling boom is not a curse to some residents of our area, lawmakers should not hesitate to enact them. Hearings would be a good step to learn whether there are adequate safeguards.