Energy. Environment. Economy.

A Guide To Dimock’s Water Problems

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

Dimock PA residents Kelly Sautner and her father and mother Craig Sautner and Julie Sautner, showing their tap water sample.

Yesterday, we told you about the Department of Environmental Protection’s ruling that Cabot Oil and Gas no longer needs to supply waterto residents of Dimock, Susquehanna County

Looking for background information on Dimock and its methane migration problems? A good first stop is this April 2009 Propublica article, which labeled the community “ground zero for drilling in the Marcellus Shale.”

Norma Fiorentino’s drinking water well was a time bomb. For weeks, workers in her small northeastern Pennsylvania town had been plumbing natural gas deposits from a drilling rig a few hundred yards away. They cracked the earth and pumped in fluids to force the gas out. Somehow, stray gas worked into tiny crevasses in the rock, leaking upward into the aquifer and slipping quietly into Fiorentino’s well. Then, according to the state’s working theory, a motorized pump turned on in her well house, flicked a spark and caused a New Year’s morning blast that tossed aside a concrete slab weighing several thousand pounds.

Fiorentino wasn’t home at the time, so it’s difficult to know exactly what happened. But afterward, state officials found methane, the largest component of natural gas, in her drinking water. If the fumes that built up in her well house had collected in her basement, the explosion could have killed her.

Ever since a water well blew up on January 1, 2009, Dimock has become a national poster child for problems associated with natural gas drilling. One of the many articles written about the township in national publications: A June 2010 Vanity Fair piece. Under Governor Rendell, DEP took an aggressive stance against Cabot.

DEP’s ruling came after the release of new information, showing methane migration has subsisted in the community, despite a moratorium on Cabot drilling. Anti-drilling activists have made it clear they’ll push back against the state’s decision, calling it their “Alamo.”

One thing’s clear. Regardless of who caused the contamination, many Dimock residents have undrinkable water, and DEP’s ruling will have major financial implications for people who need to truck in potable water, as the AP reported yesterday.

Bill Ely, 60, said the water coming out of his well looks like milk.

“You put your hand down a couple of inches and you can’t see your hand, that’s how much gas there is in it. And they’re telling me it was that way all my life,” said Ely, who has lived in the family homestead for nearly 50 years and said his well water was crystal clear until Cabot’s arrival three years ago.

If Cabot stops refilling his 550-gallon plastic “water buffalo” that supplies water for bathing and washing clothes, Ely said it will cost him $250 per week to maintain it and another $20,000 to $30,000 to install a permanent system to pipe water from an untainted spring on his land.

Ely and another resident, Victoria Switzer, said their attorneys had promised to seek an injunction in the event that DEP gave Cabot permission to halt deliveries. The attorneys did not immediately return an email and phone call seeking comment.


  • Tom Shepstone

    Last Sautner dissolved methane tests were non-detect and they refuse treatment systems anyway.

    • Anonymous

      These people were given twice the value of their home (the money is in an escrow account for them)they get to keep the home, they get to keep the royalties, they were offered free treatment systems, and they can continue to sue Cabot.  They won’t take treatment or the money.  I recently read on EID they have also been offered the value of their homes by a private person.  So they have twice the value plus the value again and they can move but won’t. If they want to stay and they don’t want the free treatment system they have the money in the escrow account and can purchase one of their choosing. I’m guessing that  they hired a group of lawyers who did a lot of work for them and are now expecting to get paid for the work they were hired to do.  You can’t hire someone and then after working for you for quite a while decide you are going to fire them and not pay them can you? 

      • Lindsay

        I know for a fact that at least one point in your “facts” is a complete lie.  I’ve seen the treatment system in the Sautners’ basement.  Cabot’s been delivering water because the treatment system never fully worked.  The way these people have been hung out to dry is atrocious.

        • Anonymous

          Since I actually have a treatment system and it works you are the one who lies!!!!!!!!!!!!I If you read back thru the net you will read where she stated she decided her treatment system didn’t work it took it off line herself. Before you pick a side you had better do your homework first. You may end up being embarrassed in the end.

          • Anonymous

            @ FactsRtold (OLD Bat)……. I told you stop with your lies! Come on Char really? The DEP took it off line,

          • Anonymous
          • Jenny Hrvatska

            factsRtold, so what works in one situation works in every situation? It must be reassuring to live in a world where everything is the same everywhere.

          • GetTheFacts

            If it didn’t work wouldn’t you say try something else?  Or would you just flat out say we wont let you try?  Did you ever think these people just don’t want the water fixed?  Did you know they never drank the water?  Did you know  the home had issues before they purchased it? If it was all about the water don’t you think they’d let them  try and fix it until it was fixed?

          • Pasissy1

            we want a water line and will get one! and we dont want them to drill or frack in Dimock anymore! you think you know about us…your nothing but an OLD liar! Get your facts straight first…CHEMICALS IN THE WATER< you come and drink it

      • Anonymous
    • montroseman

      non detect my ass there is clearly something in the water i was visiting someone in dimock and got a glass of water from the sink and was disgusted with the taste and smell smells almost like playdough and tastes horrible

    • Anonymous
  • Mike Knapp

    How is it “clear” that residents in Dimock have undrinkable water?  As noted in the story, the DEP has taken a VERY hard line with Cabot in regards to the drinking water in Dimock.  Why would DEP suddenly reverse its course and allow Cabot to discontinue water service if they weren’t 100% convinced the issues have been remedied and the water is safe?

  • Anonymous

    Anti-drill are calling it their “Alamo”? No, the truth is they’ve managed to manipulate a handful of people for a couple years into being their “spokespersons”.  The other 99% of Dimock people are happy with both their water and the drilling.  If the water is so bad, how come not all of the people in the area sued?  How come some have proven their water drinkable?  How come the Sautners or others have not released any reports to contradict the results released by URS, the independent water testing company who provided the results?  How come when there are events arranged to bring attention to the so-called problem to attention, do only three or four actual Dimock residents show up and the rest are from New York.  These same events are arranged by New York people and groups with agendas.  Little has been reported about Dimock for months until the sGEIS re-issued in New York State and public hearings announced.
    The water is fine, the people are fine, and many Dimock residents (and other Susquehanna County residents) are tired of being used as the anti-drill’s poster child.  For those of you who say the DEP was bought out or looked the other way or what have you, it’s merely spoiled grapes.

    • Anonymous

      If they were telling the truth they wouldn’t think it was something to joke about.  It looks like they were having fun when this was made. I guess it’s all about money and the 15 min. of fame they had and just couldn’t get enough of.  Enough is enough have them pay that massive lawyer bill and take the water away.  It’s time they look in the mirror. It’s not a very pretty sight is it?!

      • famousgalandilikeit

        Sounds like your a jealous Old bat that likes to make videos for Cabot

  • Keep Kicking

    The methane that was found in these residents water supply was thermogenic, and disturbed by the industry from deep shale (as I’ve heard every gasser out there rip these poor people from insinuating that the methane was natural to they put chemicals in it themselves) and proven by the John Hanger’s watch of the DEP.  Since then, the reigns have been handed over to $1.2 million politically motivated paid-for-by-the-gas industry Tom Corbett who pays Krancer to ‘look the other way’.  I give these people in Dimock credit for not signing the non-disclosure so the industry can continue its charade of ‘no documented cases’.  Why should anyone be forced off their homeland for someone saying, ‘hey, here’s twice what your house is worth?’  To the neighbors of these poor people who just want them to go away so they can continue their pillageing of the good Lord’s earth for money (the root of all evil), shame on you for not having any sense of community and I’m glad I don’t live there or next to you.  Please don’t buy a retirement home next to me after you’ve ruined the beautiful land in PA.  If this is how you act towards your fellow brothers and sisters, please remove ‘you have a friend in PA’ off your license plate.  You’re certainly no friend of the environment or your neighbor.

  • Brian Oram

    A well by well view of Dimock PA based on EPA Data –

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