Journalism in the Public Interest

Years After Evidence of Fracking Contamination, EPA to Supply Drinking Water to Homes in Pa. Town

The federal agency announced it would bring tanks of drinking water to four homes in Dimock, Pa.

First, the earth around the rural town of Dimock, Pa., was cracked open as gas drillers used fracking to tap the vast energy supplies of the Marcellus Shale.

Then, in April 2009, residents there lost their access to fresh drinking water. Wells turned fetid. Some blew up. Tap water caught fire.

Now, nearly three years later — and after a string of lawsuits and state investigations has ushered Dimock to the forefront of the environmental debate over drilling but failed to resolve the water problem — the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in to supply drinking water itself.

On Friday, the agency announced it would bring tanks of drinking water to four homes, including that of Julie Sautner, whom ProPublica first interviewed about her water problems in 2009.

“Data reviewed by EPA indicates that residents’ well water contains levels of contaminants that pose a health concern,” the agency said in a statement. Tests showed dangerous levels of arsenic, a carcinogen, as well as glycols and barium in at least four wells, and the EPA is apparently concerned that the contamination may be more widespread.

According to the statement, the EPA plans to test the water supplies in 60 additional homes for hazardous substances.

In 2009, Pennsylvania officials charged Cabot Oil & Gas, the company that drilled the wells in Dimock, with several violations it said had contributed to methane gas leaking out of the gas wells and into drinking water. For a time, Cabot supplied drinking water to a number of homes in the area but then stopped.

The EPA has waded into the Dimock issues slowly over the past few months, provoking a defensive stance from the state’s lead environmental regulator, who earlier this month called the EPA’s understanding of the Dimock situation “rudimentary.”

But the state has not undertaken the scope of water analysis the EPA now plans to do, and until the EPA stepped in Friday, Dimock residents had found little resolution.

Environmental groups are applauding the EPA’s move. "This finding confirms what Dimock residents have said for months, that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection should have never allowed Cabot to end deliveries of clean water," said Environmental Working Group senior counsel Dusty Horwitt.

But they also say the time has come for the EPA to address water contamination concerns in other communities across the country where residents say drilling has harmed their water.

In December, the EPA concluded that fracking was likely to blame for a similar rash of groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyo. The agency is conducting a multiyear national study of fracking’s effects on water supplies.

We have previously reported about water and drilling concerns in parts of western Wyoming, as well as central and southern Colorado, Texas, Ohio and elsewhere.

This is only going to get worse and it seems that shuttling purified water all over the place is only a temporary solution, and a costly one at that.  How can the government afford to ship water to people?  This kind of solution sure can’t go on forever.  We have had problems with our water for years and used to buy bottled water from the grocery store.  In desperation I finally did research and bought a Berkey water filter so I could be in control and know that my family is not drinking contaminated water.  That is cheaper than paying more taxes so that the EPA can ship water to people.  Do your own research and don’t depend on the government to provide safe water. For those of you who are affected, my heart goes out to your.  It is an injustice.  I got my Berkey from these guys.  BTW, my problem was from fertilizers, not fracking, but contaminated water is contaminated water!

There’s going to be allot more of this comin and guess who’s gonna foot the bill, as always, along with the rest of the damage done including that from possible earthquakes!!

I hope that the drillers are paying for the water, NOT the taxpayer.

Stephanie Palmer

Jan. 20, 2012, 7:52 p.m.

So is Cabot off the hook for the expense of supplying water? Has the state won their case? What’s going to happen to the homeowners?  There is another, older way of accessing the gas. Fracking is just the latest and faster than the other. But the older way I understand is safer for the environment. What gives with that?

Edmund Singleton

Jan. 21, 2012, 3:40 a.m.

Clean water or profit, let me see…

So, the EPA is stepping up to the plate to put the taxpayers on the hook for the drinking water contaminated by Cabot Oil & Gas.  Score another one for Bank of America, the largest stockholder of Cabot.  Will we then be called upon to pay for the Love Canal of Pennsylvania, Dimock, when they can’t sell their homes?

The taxpayers are paying for this, Mr. Reed. Perhaps that’s why the EPA was so careful in making their decision. They have faced a lot of scrutiny over this, especially from the PA DEP. If people’s lives weren’t being destroyed, one might think it’s almost funny how the DEP Sec. Krancer expects gas drillers to go “above and beyond” when it comes to safety, saying they should be self-policing with “peer pressure,” but he doesn’t require Cabot to go “above and beyond” when it comes to replacing the water they polluted.

It’s like Bizarro World here in Pennsylvania. We desperately need the EPA!

Gee, where are all the Pro Drillers??  Surely they must comment about this. 

By the by, I saw and heard Ms. Deborah Rogers last eve talk about the phoney economics of this whole fracking-gas situation, and she gave the clearest economic evaluation of this scheme.  There is good reason for the Majors to get into this business, finally, and she explains all that. 

For the video of this amazing woman, Deborah Rogers, from the state of Texas, go to <> is a couple of days from this date of 21 January.  You will be much enlightened.  And by the way, she has recently met the other amazing long, tall Texan, Chip Northrup who explains the situation very well with regards to this nasty business of corporate gasholes.

This reminds me of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality declaring that rancher Louis Meeks had the most tested water in the state and there was nothing wrong with it.

Then the EPA tested it and called a public hearing to inform people who lived near Pavillion to stop drinking their well water immediately.

And so where are they drilling and fracking now? Did someone say upstate New York?

Why did the EPA step in to supply water for Dimock. Cabot was bringing in water until recently. Why can’t the government make them continue to fix the problem they caused? I hope more on this is investigated and reported. The Tea Partyers, who love smaller government and “personal responsibility”, should be at the forefront yelling at the top of their lungs to have the drillers pay for their carelessness.

Juanita Sneeuwjagt

Jan. 21, 2012, 6:24 p.m.

I completely agree with all the comments made.  Love the reference of David Kauber in refering to gas producing giants as"corporate gasholes”.
We, in Appalachia, VA, are suffering the same problems most of the rest of the nation are suffering. We place at the door of gas corporations, human rights abuse, economic loss, financial devistation and more. 
We must hold our legislators noses to the grindstone and insist they pass laws to protect us and not to enable further harm from greedy natural gas industry. 
.....water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink…....

It is time that we found a solution to the treatment of the “Fracked” water.  As an environmental engineer, I believe I have a solution to the treatment of this water, it is frustrating to not see this technology in use.  I would encourage those who are really interested in a solution, contact me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

And yet, form this morning’s headlines:

“Halliburton Profit Grows as U.S. Fracking Surges”

Go to Energy in Depth if you want the facts instead of this propaganda.

Anne, if you happen to know any veterans who have served in Iraq, ask them why one might not want a profiteering industrialist supplying drinking water.

I won’t link, since that tends to trigger moderation, but you can find it pretty easily searching for Iraq tainted drinking water.  This came from the Seattle Times, early 2008:

“A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.”

Now imagine that the same people delivering the water are the people who destroyed your supply in the first place and consider you an inconvenience…

And hey, look, there’s even something of an overlap with EL Beck’s article.  I won’t spoil the surprise, though…

Go to Energy in Depth if you want the facts instead of this propaganda

FACTS?  EID is nothing more than a PR agency for the gas drillers!  It is well documented that EID will use distortion and hyperbole to try and muddy the waters on any issue related to environmental contamination with regard to drilling!

EID’s main purpose is to be an AstroTurf organization and a puppet for gas drillers

Besides the Pa DEP, are there any comments and positions by the Pa. Governor, Legislature, US Senators from Pa and US Representatives from PA?

Debbie Newbery

Jan. 25, 2012, 12:32 p.m.

I live in a small hamlet in Alberta.  Our government is spending 2 billion dollars to pipe C02 emissions underground in our area.  We had a new well drilled 5 years ago.  Our water is not good and often has an odor with it that is probably related to the oil and gas industry, so we drink bottled water. 

I fear problems with pressurized C02 piped in from Ft. McMurray, Swan Hills and Fort Saskatchewan emissions.  With all the fracking already done on the old wells, no one can answer how government will monitor risks to groundwater and soil contamination from C02, or even if they have monitoring equipment.

No one has been around to collect water samples as ERCB has deemed health risks as unfounded.

Wish us luck.

Debbie Newbery
Box 38,
Tees, AB   T4P 3T6

If you continue to vote Republican in the USA and Conservative in Canada…well guess what? Do you think they care about your health and safety?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat

The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.

The Story So Far

The country’s push to find clean domestic energy has zeroed in on natural gas, but cases of water contamination have raised serious questions about the primary drilling method being used. Vast deposits of natural gas, large enough to supply the country for decades, have brought a drilling boom stretching across 31 states. The drilling technique being used, called hydraulic fracturing, shoots water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rock and release the gas.

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