EPA Fracking Probe May Include Dimock, PA Case Study

Water contamination linked to hydraulic fracturing in Dimock, PA could become the subject of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) case study. According to a report on PressConnects.com, EPA officials have been in touch with some Dimock landowners with tainted water wells, and the agency has confirmed that the Susquehanna County town is under consideration to be a part of a two-year, $1.9 million study into the health and environmental impacts of fracking.

Dimock was prominently featured in the HBO documentary “GasLand” which detailed the dangers of fracking, a natural gas drilling technique 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 Oil and Gas Co. in federal court for contaminating their wells and hurting the value of their real estate. According to PressConnects.com, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded the Dimock water well contamination was caused by faulty well casing and drilling operations and not the fracking process itself, though a spill of a fracking solution made its way to a local stream.

Just last month it was announced that 19 Dimock families would split $4.1 million under a settlement negotiated by the DEP and Cabot Oil and Gas. Among other things, the Dimock fracking settlement also binds Cabot to offer and pay to install whole-house gas mitigation devices in each of the 19 affected homes, and requires the driller to pay the DEP $500,000 to offset the state’s expense of investigating the water contamination issues that have plagued Dimock residents for nearly two years.

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 a civil lawsuit against Cabot.

The EPA launched its fracking study last year on the direction of the US Congress. According to PressConnects.com, a Dimock resident has confirmed that Robert Puls, director of research for the EPA’s Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division, met a month ago with a number of Dimock homeowners whose water wells had been contaminated with high levels of methane.

“(Puls) met with us and asked us if we would be interested in the possibility of a being a case study,” Victoria Switzer, one of a dozen Dimock residents who is suing Cabot, told PressConnects.com. “It would be great. To me, my goal has always been to protect my home and my land. I now know that the DEP isn’t going to do that, and Cabot certainly isn’t going to do that. I’m hopeful, and maybe I’m naïve, that the EPA can help us if they take us as a case study.”

Switzer called the EPA her “last hope,” PressConnects.com said.

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