Running Water for Dimock? The Latest in the Long Fracking Saga
The Associated Press is reporting that a Susquehanna County community made famous by flaming tap water and the fight over high-volume hydraulic fracture horizontal drilling for natural gas is about to get a staple most people take for granted.
A new water line is reportedly going to be installed to deliver a clean, reliable drinking water supply to Dimock for the first time in 14 years.
The AP report says on November 22, a public utility released the first details of a plan to mitigate the damage that a gas driller is charged with causing in the community located about 15 miles south of Binghamton.
The allegations of contamination in Dimock drew national notoriety after residents were filmed lighting their tap water on fire in the Emmy Award-winning 2010 documentary “Gasland.” The case has been called one of the most notorious to ever emerge from the U.S. drilling and fracking boom.
The AP published a statement from Pennsylvania American Water’s engineering manager, Dan Rickard saying “Pennsylvania American Water is pleased it had the opportunity to partner with the Attorney General’s office to develop a safe drinking water solution for the residents of Dimock, who like all of us, deserve access to clean, safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water.”
Dimock residents were briefed on the plan on November 21 at a meeting with Pennsylvania American Water and high-level officials in the state attorney general’s office, which is pursuing criminal charges against Cabot Oil & Gas, one of the country’s biggest drilling companies, blamed for polluting Dimock's aquifer. (Cabot recently merged with a Denver-based company to form Corterra Energy Inc.)
The news service report goes on to say that the residents declined comment Monday night as they left the meeting at a high school near Dimock, saying they’d been instructed by a prosecutor not to talk.
“Our office remains laser focused on using our limited tools to restore clean drinking water for the residents of Dimock,” Jacklin Rhoads, a spokesperson in the attorney general’s office, said in a statement November 22. “Yesterday, our attorneys along with Pennsylvania American Water updated the impacted residents on the status of the case and the extensive independent research done with one goal — how best to provide clean water to their homes.”
Further details of the water line plan, including its cost and whether the driller, Coterra Energy Inc., will bear the financial burden as part of any settlement of the criminal case, were not publicly released Tuesday.
Residents of Dimock have used bottled water, bulk water purchased commercially, and even water drawn from creeks and artesian wells, saying they don't trust the water coming from their wells.
The state attorney general’s office got involved in June 2020, filing criminal charges against the former Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. after a grand jury investigation found the company had failed to fix its faulty gas wells, which leaked flammable methane into residential water supplies in Dimock and surrounding communities.
Cabot has long maintained the flaming gas in residents’ water was naturally occurring. It faces a total of 15 criminal counts, most of them felonies, including illegal discharge of industrial wastes and unlawful conduct under the state’s Clean Streams Law. The company reportedly is still working through the courts to try to resolve the criminal charges.
Alex Wong/Getty Images [file][/caption]There have been several attempts to address the water situation in the community, including loads of potable water being shipped (accompanied by demonstrators) from the Binghamton area to the township as well as an idea to connect the residents to a municipal water system 6 miles away using some $12 million in state environmental funds that were to be paid back by Cabot that was dropped as litigation continued and the driller agreed to pau $4.1 million to install individual water treatment systems at affected homes. Some of those residents say the systems never did work right and they still had to buy water for daily consumption and stock Water Buffalos for things like washing and flushing toilets.
But some residents say the systems never worked properly, forcing them to purchase bottled water for drinking and cooking and get larger deliveries of water for showering, washing dishes and flushing toilets.
One of the last legal twists in the case came back in March, 2022 as the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office indicated it might seek to remove a judge that was scheduled to preside over the criminal case with word that the county’s only adjudicator serves on the board of a charitable foundation that has received millions of dollars in corporate donations from Cabot while a Cabot executive also serves on the foundation’s board.