Cabot Oil & Gas Co., a natural gas driller that has extensive hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, was recently in hot water for the unauthorized dumping of fracking wastewater into Neshaminy Creek, a tributary to the Delaware River. The Delaware River Watershed is a source of drinking water to more than 17 million people, including big East Coast cities like Philadelphia. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), the Upper Delaware River was named the country’s most endangered river last year because of fracking in the Marcellus shale.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which regulates the watershed, ordered a treatment facility operated by PSC Environmental Services L.L.C in Hatfield Township and the Hatfield Township Municipal Authority to cease accepting fluids from northern Pennsylvania, after learning that 1.8 million gallons of wastewater had been trucked to the plant. Most of the fluid was fracking wastewater, which had been treated but not purified, and was dumped into Neshaminy Creek. The wastewater was produced by Cabot Oil & Gas, and came from its Susquehanna County well sites.
The DRBC said it learned of the discharges in May, after PSC had been treating the wastewater for nearly a year. It sent letters to Cabot and the treatment plant June 1 ordering them to cease. However, the commission did not fine Cabot or PSC Environmental Services for the unauthorized release, the Inquirer said.
According to a report on LehighValley.com, a spokesperson for Cabot said the company knew its waste shouldn’t have been sent to the Delaware River Watershed. But, the spokesperson added that he didn’t know if Cabot knew where PSC was discharging the fluids.
The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, which opposes fracking operations in the watershed, is pushing the commission to take tougher action against Cabot and PSC Environmental Services.
“Because of this blatant violation of DRBC’s rules and regulations, and the precedent that gets set for the future, it is important that the DRBC exercise all due enforcement authority for this violation,” Maya K. van Rossum, the head of the organization, wrote in a letter to the DRBCC.
This is not the first time Cabot’s fracking operations in Pennsylvania have caused problems with water quality. Cabot is the company behind the contamination of water wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania. Dimock, located in Susquehanna County, was prominently featured in the HBO documentary â€œGasLandâ€ which detailed the dangers of fracking, in which millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals is injected deep underground under high pressure. In late 2009, a group of Dimock residents sued Cabot in federal court for contaminating their wells and hurting the value of their real estate.
Last month, it was announced that 19 Dimock families would split $4.1 million under a settlement negotiated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Cabot Oil & Gas. The settlement replaced an earlier enforcement order that would have required Cabot to pay $11.8 million to connect impacted homes with a new municipal water pipeline.
The about-face on the waterline is not setting well with some Dimock families, who say they will continue to pursue their civil lawsuit against Cabot.