Tuesday, March 6, 2012
PA Water Testing Results Expected To Impact Fracking Debate
In a Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 photo, Ray Kemble pumps water from a truck into his neighbor's tank in Dimock, Pa. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency appears to be ramping up its interest in the Marcellus Shale a rock formation in Pennsylvania and surrounding states that is believed to hold the nations largest reservoir of gas with investigations in both the northeastern and southwestern corners of Pennsylvania. The drilling industry accuses EPA of overreach. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's testing of scores of water wells will give residents of a small northeastern Pennsylvania village a snapshot of the aquifer they rely on for drinking, cooking and bathing.
The first EPA test results, expected this week, are certain to provide fodder for both sides of a raging 3-year-old debate over unconventional natural gas drilling and its impacts on Dimock, a rural crossroads that starred in the Emmy Award-winning documentary "Gasland."
A handful of residents are suing Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., saying the Houston-based driller contaminated their wells with potentially explosive methane gas and with drilling chemicals. Many other residents of Dimock assert the water is clean, and that the plaintiffs are exaggerating problems with their wells to help their lawsuit.
In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, a pro-drilling group called Enough is Enough contends the agency's "rogue" Philadelphia field office has allowed itself to be a pawn of trial lawyers seeking a big payout from Cabot. More than 300 people signed it. "Dimock Proud" signs dot lawns throughout the village in Susquehanna County, one of the most intensively drilled regions of the Marcellus Shale gas field.
The same group recently launched a website aimed at dispelling what it contends is the myth that Dimock's aquifer is contaminated.
Residents who have been clamoring for federal intervention say the attacks on the EPA — which have come not only from their neighbors but from Cabot and Pennsylvania's environmental chief — are groundless.
"Since the EPA's investigation began, Cabot and (state regulators) have undertaken a shameless public campaign against the EPA's attempt to rescue the victims who are now without potable water and prevent their exposure to hazardous constituents now present in the aquifer," one of their lawyers, Tate Kunkle, wrote recently. "One would ask why Cabot and the department would oppose the EPA's study of the aquifer and oppose further sampling if they were so sure the aquifer was not contaminated."