The Environmental Protection Agency performed an about-face this past weekend in failing to deliver fresh water to residents of a northeast Pennsylvania community adversely affected by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling.
AP reports from Dimock, Pa., regulators had promised a fresh water delivery to a select number of homes on Friday but a day later backed away from that guarantee, telling residents they would not be delivering the water. The residents have been receiving fresh water from various sources for more than a year, including a special pipeline of fresh water built by the offending natural gas company.
The gas and toxins have rendered their private water wells contaminated to the point the water is dangerous. The water in the affected wells is not safe for bathing, drinking or even flushing the toilet. Cabot Oil & Gas, responsible for the wells near the affected homes, had agreed to supply the homes with fresh water and even paid for the installation of treatment systems and built a special pipeline supplying fresh water for 11 homeowners in the area who sued the company over the alleged contamination. Late last year, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection granted Cabot permission to halt deliveries of fresh water to those homes but offered no alternatives to homeowners, leaving them without fresh water entirely.
Advocacy groups have been filling the void by trucking in water from various sources around the region and the group Water Defense, headed by actor Mark Ruffalo, has become the latest to help residents in Dimock, bringing in water after the EPA broke its promise, AP reports.
Residents were told on Friday by EPA officials that the agency would begin supplying the affected homes with fresh water. The report indicates the agency changed its mind and told the news group via email that a delivery would not be made. The EPA provided no explanation for the change.
Dimock was featured in the HBO documentary, Gasland, as it’s the hometown of the movie’s director. In that feature, some residents provide an uncensored look at the dangers they face because of nearby fracking activity. Some are even able to light their tap water on fire due to excessive levels of methane gas. Other residents were shown collecting dead animals and birds they’ve found near their homes, claiming they are also victims of fracking drilling.
The Pennsylvania town is almost smack in the middle of the massive Marcellus shale formation, where natural gas companies have converged in large numbers to tap a previously unreachable source of natural gas deposits. By using the fracking process – which involves the injection of water, sand and a mix of more than 600 chemicals into an underground well – the shale formations are broken apart and natural gas is released.
Between the inherent dangers of the process and shoddily constructed wells prone to leaking drilling fluid, fracking has resulted in life-altering situations for nearby residents. State regulators in Pennsylvania have said in the past that 18 homes in the Dimock area have been adversely affected by fracking drilling. Thousands more in Pennsylvania and across the country also believe fracking drilling has affected them negatively.
Lax regulations against the drilling process and a slow response on the part of regulators at the state and federal level have allowed the gas exploration to continue almost unchecked.