Pennsylvania

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Protests and Counter Protests Come to Dimock

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

Mark Ruffalo speaks to anti-drilling activists in Dimock, Pa.

For someone like Ray Kemble, living with a water buffalo means not taking a shower for four days if the water delivery is late. Or keeping the window in his bathroom open while he does take a shower because the level of chlorine is so high. Kemble lives in Dimock, and says he can’t safely drink his water. The Department of Environmental Protection says he can. Kemble says the DEP betrayed him.

“It’s really difficult,” said Kemble. People just take it all for granted. They go home they turn the faucet on. They go home, they flush the toilet. They go home, take a shower. You want to go home you wash your car. We can’t. We gotta conserve that water.”

Kemble is one of 11 families living along Carter Road in Dimock who received water deliveries from Houston based Cabot Oil and Gas as part of an agreement with DEP, which found Cabot responsible for contaminating drinking water wells. The DEP concluded that methane migrated into drinking water wells due to faulty well construction. But the DEP has since concluded that Dimock’s well water is now safe to drink. And told Cabot they could halt free deliveries. Cabot spokesman George Stark says the well water now meets federal drinking water standards. The company says the high levels of methane in resident’s water occurred naturally.

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

But residents like Kemble disagree. On Wednesday, he and eleven other families plan to take their case to court and ask a judge to overrule DEP’s decision.

On Tuesday Kemble stood with the families who continue to battle Cabot outside the home of Julie and Craig Sautner. Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the group and, while holding up a bottle of muddy well water, and spoke to about 100 supporters.

“We’re not Republicans we’re not Democrats,” said Ruffalo.  ”We’re not Independants, we’re not anti-fracking, we’re not pro-fracking, we’re Americans. And our water is the most essential thing to all of our lives and we have to protect it and we have to be generous to the people who have lost this very very basic priveledge.”

Ruffalo helped fundraise and organize a delivery of 5700 gallons of water from Washingtonville, New York. He urged the community of Dimock to rally behind those who say their water remains contaminated. But Kemble says his neighbors have turned against him. He says they’ve taken axes to water jugs sitting outside his house, and thrown garbage on his lawn. The issue has divided the community. Earlier in the day a pro-drilling group of Dimock residents held their own press conference right next door to the Sautners. They say the water is safe to drink and the water delivery is unnecessary.

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