Several dozen homeowners in Dimock, Pa., have reportedly reached a settlement with a leading hydraulic fracturing (fracking) driller they blamed for contaminating their water wells with explosive levels of gas and toxic chemicals.
According to an Associated Press report, the details of the settlement are being kept confidential but would resolve issues with 32 of 36 households in one neighborhood of the small northeastern Pennsylvania village who blamed Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. for contaminating their well water with its nearby fracking wells.
Despite agreeing to the settlement, Cabot still contends that its fracking operations near Dimock or anywhere else are responsible for causing the contamination of water wells or underground water aquifers. They, along with the entire fracking industry, believe that the drilling process is a safe means of extracting natural gas and oil deposits from underground shale.
The three dozen households are located along Carter Road in Dimock. The homeowners first claimed in 2009 that Cabot’s fracking operations nearby were contaminating their water wells. They’ve been involved in a lengthy legal battle with the company since and at one point, Cabot was ordered to truck in fresh water supplies to the residents who refused to tap their own wells because they believed them to be contaminated beyond any safe use.
Video clips now made famous on the Web and through the HBO documentary “Gasland” produced by Dimock’s own Josh Fox show some residents lighting their tap water on fire. They claim that methane gas levels in their water skyrocketed after Cabot’s fracking operations opened.
Testing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year however, apparently showed that the fracking wells were not to blame for elevated methane gas levels in the residents’ water and told Cabot that it no longer had to provide clean water supplies to those residents.
The claims made by these Dimock residents have literally ignited a national debate on the safety and efficiency of fracking drilling, including its impact on the environment and public health. Thousands of wells have been opened across the U.S. with a majority in the Mid Atlantic region, especially in the areas surrounding Dimock, Pa.
Elevated methane gas levels are only chief among the many complaints residents living closest to fracking wells have. They also blame the drilling for contaminating their water with other harmful toxic chemicals and agents used in the process, including benzene and diesel fuel in some operations. They believe that the underground fractures created during the fracking process, along with slipshod well construction allow the dangerous contents of fracking drilling fluid to escape into the groundwater and underground aquifers which eventually contaminate public and private water supplies. They also blame fracking for air pollution and a strain on natural resources because each well requires hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh water to operate.
AP reports that attorneys representing Cabot have reached a verbal agreement with all but four of the households who still believe the company’s fracking wells are dangerous and will continue to work with the holdouts on the settlement. Terms of the settlement are not being disclosed.