Pennsylvania

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EPA Finds Arsenic And Barium In Dimock Households’ Water

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Anti-drilling activists protest in Dimock last year

The Environmental Protection Agency has found arsenic, barium and other “hazardous substances” in the private water wells of four homes in Dimock, Susquehanna County.

The chemicals — while not definitively linked to recent gas drilling –  pose “a chronic health risk” in the Dimock area, according to an EPA Action Memorandum.

A bit of background: ever since methane migration problems began occurring at private water wells in early 2009, Dimock has become ground zero in the battle over hydraulic fracturing. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection blamed the methane contamination on faulty gas wells drilled by Cabot Oil and Gas, and ultimately forced the company to pay more than $4 million to affected families. Cabot maintains it’s not responsible for the methane problems.

As part of their legal agreement, DEP forced Cabot to provide water to more than a dozen Dimock families. But in December, the agency determined the company had met its requirements, and released it from the obligation.

That set off a firestorm of anti-drilling protests in the northeastern Pennsylvania community. (Mark Ruffalo even showed up.)

A few weeks later, the EPA began investigating the situation.  This memo is the first direct action the federal government has taken in Dimock.

(Click here to see our app plotting every producing natural gas well in Dimock.)

The document states, “historic drilling activities in the Dimock area may have used materials containing hazardous substances. Spills and other releases have been documented by [Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection] from these drilling activities.” The memo argues the presence of these hazardous substances gives the federal agency authority to deliver water to the comes in question.

The document does point out “arsenic and manganese [another substance found in the water] are naturally occurring substances,” and notes further testing will occur.

This comes about a month and a half after Cabot Oil and Gas – the company DEP found responsible for methane contamination in the Dimock area – stopped delivering water to these homes and other Dimock families.

(Why did DEP allow Cabot to stop providing water to Dimock families? We explained the decision in this post.)

Here’s the full EPA Action Memorandum:

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