Sunday, August 07, 2011

FIX IT! Contaminated well water in Dimock

Several years ago natural gas driller Cabot Oil & Gas was found liable for the contamination of residential wells in Dimock, in one of the first well-publicized cases of damage caused by a drilled in Marcellus Shale territory in Northeastern Pennsylvania - and a taste of things to come.

Faced with an initial agreement to provide water to the affected residences through water lines to municipal sources, Cabot balked and used legal maneuvering to get a new judgement. They agreed to install "treatment systems" inside each affected residence. Contaminated water would be pumped into the residence, and the "treatment system" would remove the methane and contaminants and whatnot that Cabot maintained weren't even there in the first place. And Cabot's legal obligations would be fulfilled with the installation of the system; maintenance and repairs would be the responsibility of the individual homeowner. And good luck using that as a selling point when you decide to sell your home. Better keep the manual to pass on to future purchasers.

Naturally, some residents found this to be an unacceptable solution.

And so it goes. Cabot refuses to abide with the original (and now vacated) consent order, which is understandable - after all, they went through all the trouble and expense of getting it overturned. Residents find the prospect of drinking and showering out of plastic "water buffaloes" to be as unacceptable as the notion of becoming the managers of in-house "treatment systems." Residents have one vote apiece, while Cabot and other gas companies pour millions of dollars in bribes contributions to state and local governments to make sure everybody remembers how to vote when it comes to regulation of their industry and settling disputes with the peons.

Some residents of Dimock decided they had had enough. They purchased a billboard ad featuring an image of a pitcher of water drawn from their well, a list of the chemicals that have been found within, and the words "FIX IT!"

Within twenty-four hours, the billboard ad was taken down.

Here is the text of the press release that included the billboard image that I have posted above:
Less than twenty-four hours after Dimock residents held a press
conference beneath a newly installed billboard that called attention to their
contaminated water wells, the billboard came down. It had displayed a
photograph of brownish water drawn from the well of Craig and Julie
Sautner, and listed some of the chemical contaminants it contained.

The billboard apparently rattled Cabot Oil and Gas, the company widely
assumed to be responsible for the water woes in Dimock. A lawyer
employed by Cabot videotaped residents as they spoke about living in
homes with contaminated wells, and a Cabot spokesperson, George Stark,
was on hand to call the billboard “a lie.” Mr. Stark disputed that the
discolored water came from the Sautner well, and claimed to be unaware
that tests conducted by Duke University and the Pennsylvania Department
of Environmental Protection found dozens of contaminants in the water.
These included acetone, aluminum, arsenic, barium, beryllium,
bromodichloromethane, butylbenzylphthalate, dibromochloromehtane,
ethane, lead, lithium, methane, nitrate, silicon, strontium, sulfate, thorium
228, thorium 230, uranium 234 and uranium 235/236.

At one point Mr. Stark stood in front of the cameras and claimed that the
Sautners water was no longer contaminated and boasted he’d drink a glass
of it himself. He has yet to keep that promise.
Last Saturday a local resident was killed when a car he and his daughter were in was crushed by a truck carrying fracking materials - driven by an out-of-state (and allegedly unlicensed) trucker. Earlier this week a pristine stream was contaminated with "drilling mud" - a slurry of water, bentonite, and assorted other chemicals specific to each mix. Everything is unfolding as it has been predicted by those who warned about this years ago. How much more has to happen before we decide we've had enough?

Fix it!

Not just the problem of contaminated well water in Dimock, but the whole damned problem of environmentally destructive gas extraction in Marcellus Shale territory!

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