The Grassroots Report - There's more than one Dimock: Potter County

Via the Citizens Concerned About Natural Gas Drilling

Mr Volitis approved this statement for yesterday's DEP Rally in Harrisburg

Pat VoIitis is a retired semi-disabled senior citizen living on top of a remote mountain in Galeton Potter CO PA. He has been living with contaminated water for over 3 years now. In November 2009 Ultra installed a natural gas well pad 1250 feet from Pat Volitis’s home. In December 2009 Pat had strange tingling on his scalp and intermittent blurry vision and soon after he started vomiting, felt very weak, had GI symptoms. He went to his doctor who could not tell him why he was ill, but did tell him his spleen was enlarged. It never occurred to Pat to consider his drinking water might have been the reason for his emerging health issues. Ultra called Pat in January 2010 asking to meet with him as they wanted to put an access road to the well pad through his property. Pat told them he was too sick to meet with them. Ultra sent him a basket of fruit, and called periodically to ask what was wrong with him and how he was feeling.

In March of 2010 Pat noticed a strange chemical petrol smell to his water while doing dishes with hot water. He called Ultra to let them know his water smelled like chemicals, and he told them he was still sick and that he wanted his water tested. Ultra had Bailey Labs sample his well water and 3 weeks later Pat found out from Bailey Labs he had xylene benzene tertbutyl alcholol and other chemicals in his water all within normal EPA regulatory drinking water limits. Ultra ignored Pat’s repeated requests for his hard copy water results: he was still showering in and drinking his water. Pat ultimately got a copy of his results directly from Bailey Labs. Pat saw the organic chemicals in his water, and asked Ultra for replacement water. Ultra ignored Pat’s requests for replacement water. Pat was still sick and continued to shower in and drink his well water.

Pat had not yet contacted DEP, he gave Ultra the chance to make it right. Pat did not know that Ultra was in contact with PA DEP all along assuring them they had nothing to do with Pat’s contaminated water well: they blamed pat’s tractor for the organic chemicals in his well water.

Pat called PA DEP in April, to tell them his well had organic chemicals in it, that he was sick, and that he had results from Ultra’s indepdendent lab Bailey. He was instructed to fax the results to Caleb Woolever PA DEP. Mr Woolever told Pat DEP would only sample his well water if Ultra were present to do a split sample. Mr Volitis objected and said he had already given the first shot at making things right to Ultra and was contacting DEP as Ultra had not straightened out his water issues. DEP would not test without Ultra’s split sampling.

In May 2010 Mr Volitis agreed to let Ultra split sample with PA DEP. Two PA DEP Oil and Gas reps , one of which was Caleb Woolever, two Ultra reps, and three reps from Bailey Labs arrived at Pat’s remote mountain top cabin to sample his well water which previously tested positive for benzene, acetone, xylene, butyl alchohol, and other organics. Mr Volitis had a witness who happened to be a lawyer and he told industry and DEP he had not retained this lawyer but allowed him to witness and take notes. Caleb Woolever, PA DEP, got angry and refused to sample as he said ULTRA was not notified Pat would have a lawyer present at the sampling. Mr Woolever stepped away called someone on his cell phone, and returned and said it as ok to sample.

Three months later after repeated requests to DEP for his results during which he told them he was ill, Pat finally got his results. The determination letter from DEP was signed by Mr Woolever . The letter stated Pat’s water had not been impacted by drilling, that the still present benzene and xylene were within normal drinking water limits, that the acetone and ethylbenzaldehyde were PA DEP Lab contaminants, that there were no standards to interpret the presence of tertbutyl alchohol and several other organics in his well water. DEP had determined there was nothing wrong with his water. Pat asked that DEP repeat the testing as they noted lab contamination by their own lab. DEP refused to repeat the results to rule out lab contamination in his water results. That month, August 2010, Pat stopped drinking his water and stopped showering in it. He had called Dr Theo Colbourne’s office and learned about chemical absorption through skin. He got his own water buffalo, started hauling his own water, and buying bottled water with which to drink and cook.

Today 3 years later after his initial water impact, Pat has ongoing multiple health issues, and continues to buy his own water. He bathes in the river in warmer months and resumed showering in his well water as it is too hard physically for him to haul water. He knows that his water might not be safe to shower in. He did not come today as he does not feel well. He just received a letter that Ultra plans to drill another well on the pad by his house. He wanted to share that he is very disappointed with PA DEP and feels they are working for the natural gas industry. He suggests we follow the money trail and that we rename DEP the Department of Energy Protection.