I’d be outraged. This is a real life situation. It took eight years for water results to be analyzed and reviewed by the federal public health agency for a small Pennsylvania community. They concluded that drinking water was not safe to drink; and that the agency has no information about water contaminates from 2011 through 2016.

Is it safe now?  Although samples were taken over the eight-year period, no one knows. The federal health scientists have never seen those results. Even if they did, it might take another eight years to get the results — that would be 2024.

This is terrible . . . right?  Unfortunately, it actually gets worse. The state health scientists said that same water was safe to drink, as did the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after reviewing the same sample results.  . . . yet the water was poisoned. It is unknown how many people mixed baby formula or bathed their young children in this toxic water.

I looked into why now, in May, 2016, did the federal Agency on Toxic Substance Disease Registry (ATSDR) release a report concluding the water was unsafe to drink. I found a recent news story that announced that the victim’s lawsuit against the polluter was recently settled in court. This settlement, in Dimock, Pennsylvania against Cabot Oil & Gas was the only change in the situation.  Although I could be wrong, my conclusion was that the agency decided not to get involved in the messy trial of a multinational corporation. Instead, allowed a community to be poisoned. If that’s true, then I have no confidence nor hope that the American people are protected by their own public health government agency. In fact, it reaffirms for me that our public health protections are controlled by polluters and their lawyers.

Families, young children, and women of childbearing age drank toxic water with false assurances of safety from the very agencies charged to protect them. What is the public supposed to do? Whom can they trust?  Why can’t our health authorities act in the best interest of public health of the American people who pay for their services through our tax dollars?

For the past thirty five years, I’ve watched the criteria for health assessments go from the preponderance of evidence (collection of all relevant studies, their quality, sources and conclusions) to obscure abstract mathematical assessments.  In the past five years, it’s gotten worse. When results are undeniably harmful to public health, even using this abstract model, the results are held from the public, with agencies utilizing “draft” as reasons for not releasing reports to the public. All this time, health professionals know people are being exposed to unnecessary, and in some cases, avoidable health risks. You need not look any further than what is still happening in Flint, Michigan with their drinking water to understand this problem.

The jury’s verdict on water contamination in Dimock may have broad implications for the broader debate about the environmental risks of the shale drilling rush nationwide. Although the case did not center on claims that the fracking process (as opposed to drilling, well casing failures, spills or other problems) had directly caused the water contamination, most of the gas wells that the plaintiffs focused their attention on were aimed at the Marcellus shale gas formation.

Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, commented, “This is a huge victory for the people of Dimock, but it’s also a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration for failing to fully investigate threats posed by fracking and dangerous drilling to water supplies in Pennsylvania and across the country. Because of the EPA’s disturbing history of delay and denial, it took a federal jury to set the record straight about the natural gas industry’s toxic threat to our water.”

America, what in the world are we going to do? I’d love to hear ideas because I don’t feel safe nor should you. Send any comment you might have to me at infor@chej.org.