Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

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Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Logo.svg
Logo of the DEP
Agency overview
Formed July 1, 1995
Preceding agency
  • Department of Environmental Resources
Jurisdiction State government of Pennsylvania
Headquarters Rachel Carson State Office Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
40°15′45″N 76°52′46.5″W / 40.26250°N 76.879583°W / 40.26250; -76.879583
Agency executive

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was established on December 3, 1970,[1] is the agency in the U.S. State of Pennsylvania responsible for protecting and preserving the land, air, water, and energy resources through enforcement of the State's environmental laws. The Department's goals include fostering community development, providing environmental education, and encouraging public involvement in environmental policy.[2] The PADEP has been criticized for its poor recordkeeping practices[3] and lack of transparency.[4][5][3]


Office of the Secretary[edit]

The policy initiatives of the Secretary are created here as well as environmental justice. Both the environmental quality board and the citizens advisory council also help the Secretary shape Departmental policy.[6]

Office of the Executive Deputy Secretary[edit]

The Executive Deputy Secretary performs major communication with various media outlets. Other responsibilities include the development of legislative initiatives and grants for environmental education.[6]

Community Revitalization and Local Government Support[edit]

The Land Recycling program, Brownfields Action Team, and the Office of Local Government Liaisons all assist municipalities and business to foster redevelopment of derelict and polluted properties.[7]

Field Operations[edit]

The six regional offices (located in Norristown, Harrisburg, Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, and Meadville) as well as the main laboratory all receive assistance through this office. The emergency response team, which handles all environmental emergencies throughout the state, also operates under this office.[8]

Radiation Protection[edit]

The PADEP is required to collect data on "potential radiation exposure to workers, the public and the environment resulting from certain materials generated by gas and oil exploration and production activities," but has refused to share this information. Pennsylvania Office of Open Records ruled that the public was entitled to access data from the PADEP’s study of technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material, or TENORM, associated with gas and oil extraction. Anne E. Covey (Republican), wrote in the state court opinion that the sample data is exempt from disclosure to the public under the state's Right-To-Know law because it constituted records of a noncriminal investigation.[4][1] The other judges on the panel hearing the case were Dan Pellegrini (Democrat) and James Gardner Colins (Democrat).

Waste Management[edit]

Watershed Management[edit]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found elevated iodine-131 (I-131) levels in Philadelphia's drinking water several times since 2007 during routine quarterly monitoring.[9][10] Iodine-131 is used to diagnose and treat thyroid cancer, is produced via nuclear fission, is a byproduct of nuclear power and weapons testing,[11] and is a tracer used in hydraulic fracturing.[12][13] Iodine-131 is also used in annual tests for leaks in injection wells containing waste.[14] Originally the elevated levels were suspected to be related to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster or medical waste.[15] By March 2012 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection had ruled out the nuclear disaster, local nuclear energy production, or hospitals as sources and concluded by process of elimination that the episodically elevated levels were probably caused by patients receiving iodine therapy for the treatment of thyroid cancer.[13]

From April 2011 to April 2012 the Philadelphia Water Department, the PADEP and the US EPA conducted an intensive surveillance program to characterize I-131 in source water and determine its origins. Weekly monitoring produced 151 treated drinking water and 445 source water samples. Most readings from the Queens Lane and Belmont facilities were low (< 1pCi/L), but samples with measurable (> 1pCi/L) I-131 were found.[16] Spikes were detected in the Schuylkill, downstream of Reading, Norristown and Pottstown.[17] Spikes of 684 and 285 pCi/L were measured downstream of a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and one spike from an upstream WWTP effluent contained 1080 pCi/L.[16] The PWD, the EPA, and Water Research Foundation suggested that wastewater effluent was one possible source.[17][13] A panel of experts concluded that more information is also needed regarding the potential contributions of sources such as veterinary treatments, septic systems, Sanitary Sewer Overflows, Combined Sewer Overflows, and hydro-fracturing, and of the impact of I-131 to the ecology of receiving waters.[13] The report noted that at this time there are no "off-the-shelf" large scale drinking water treatment options for I-131 available, little research to provide a basis for developing new water treatment approaches, and that known treatment options are costly.[13]

As of October, 2012 EPA's Rad Net's periodic Iodine-131 drinking water readings were elevated to 5.46 pCi/L at the Belmont facility and 3.28 pCi/L at Queens Lane. The federal drinking water standard for Iodine-131 is 3.00 pCi/L. The EPA has stopped publishing Iodine-131 levels on its Rad Net website.[18]

Waterways Engineering[edit]

Licensing, Permits & Certifications[edit]

Natural Gas Well Permits[edit]

In March 2011, testimony of four DEP staffers, responsible for processing permits, suggested that applications for natural gas well permits are rubber-stamped, rushed through with little scrutiny and rarely rejected. The staffers' statements indicate that DEP regulators are overburdened – and possibly ignoring environmental laws – as they struggle to deal with an unprecedented drilling boom.[19] Former Governor Tom Corbett previously repealed a 4-month-old policy that prevented natural gas drilling in state parks, which the former director of DCNR stated could hurt recreation and the environment of parks in the Western part of the state.[20] In April 2011, DEP reported elevated levels of bromide, a chemical used in the natural gas drilling process, in rivers and streams in the Western part of the state and called on companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to stop taking wastewater to 15 treatment plants by May 19. Michael Krancer, acting Secretary of the DEP, further stated, "if operators (natural gas drilling) would stop giving wastewater to facilities that continue to accept it under the special provision, bromide concentrations would quickly and significantly decrease."[21]

The PADEP strongly resisted providing the AP and other news organizations with information about complaints related to drilling.[5]


Name Dates Served Appointed by
James Seif * 1995–2001 Tom Ridge
David Hess 2001–2003
Kathleen McGinty 2003–2008 Edward Rendell
John Hanger 2008–2011
Michael Krancer 2011–2013 Tom Corbett
E. Christopher Abruzzo 2013 – October 2, 2014
Dana Ankust (Acting) [22] October 2, 2014 – 2015
John Quigley [23] 2015–present Tom Wolf

* James Seif was also the last Secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources before it was split.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ a b Don Hopey (3 April 2014). "Weak records cited on Pa. shale pollution". Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Matt Miller (10 April 2015). "Court blocks environmental group's plea for radioactivity data on Marcellus Shale drilling". Patriot News. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Kevin Begos (5 January 2014). "4 states confirm water pollution from drilling. Associated Press review of complaints casts doubt on industry view that it rarely happens.". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 6 January 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Pennsylvania Manual, p. 4–54.
  7. ^ Pennsylvania Manual, p. 4–55.
  8. ^ Pennsylvania Manual, p. 4–56.
  9. ^ Jeff McMahon (10 April 2011). "EPA: New Radiation Highs in Little Rock Milk, Philadelphia Drinking Water". Forbes. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Japanese Nuclear Emergency: Radiation Monitoring". EPA. 30 June 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "Radioisotope Brief Iodine-131" (PDF). CDC. 18 August 2005. Retrieved 24 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Jack E. Whitten, Steven R. Courtemanche, Andrea R. Jones, Richard E. Penrod, and David B. Fogl (Division of Industrial and Medical Nuclear Safety, Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards (June 2000). "Consolidated Guidance About Materials Licenses: Program-Specific Guidance About Well Logging, Tracer, and Field Flood Study Licenses (NUREG-1556, Volume 14)". US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d e Timothy A. Bartrand and Jeffrey S. Rosen (October 2013). Potential Impacts and Significance of Elevated 131 I on Drinking Water Sources [Project #4486]ORDER NUMBER: 4486 (PDF) (Report). Water Research Foundation. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Steve Roy (14 June 2012). "Containment of Wastes Under the Land Ban Program (Migration section)". EPA. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 
  15. ^ Bauers, Sandy (21 July 2011). "Cancer patients’ urine suspected in Wissahickon iodine-131 levels". Philadelphia inquirer, Carbon County Groundwater Guardians. Retrieved 25 February 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Julie Becker, Teresa Méndez-‐Quigley, Kelly Anderson, Alison Amato, and John Consolvo (July 2014). Emerging Contaminant in Source Water from Medical Treatment: Iodine (PDF) (Report). NEHA. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Sandy Bauers (2012-03-30). "Radioactive iodine in Phila. water tied to thyroid patients". Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 2. Retrieved 2012-04-03. Iodine-131 also is a byproduct of nuclear power plants. But officials have ruled out the Limerick nuclear power plant, located on the Schuylkill south of Pottstown, and any of the region's medical, research, or pharmaceutical firms as the source of the iodine-131. By excluding everything else, they settled on the patients themselves as the likely source. 
  18. ^ "Iodine-131 levels in Philadelphia, PA drinking water". EPA RadNet Environfacts. EPA. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Corbett repeals policy on gas drilling in parks". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. February 24, 2011. 
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Pennsylvania Manual, pp. 4-58 – 4-59.


External links[edit]