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EPA Still Evaluating Whether To Send Water To Dimock

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Anti-drilling activists protested in Dimock last month

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency tells WHYY’s Newsworks the EPA has “not made a decision” on whether or not to deliver water to residents of Dimock, Susquehanna County, whose water wells have been impacted by methane migration.
“We’re evaluating next steps including sampling some of the residences’ well water,” spokesman David Sternberg told Newsworks in a statement. This weekend, the EPA announced plans to deliver water, but promptly changed its mind.
Cabot Oil and Gas, who the state Department of Environmental Protection has charged with contaminating dozens of families’ water wells, had been delivering water to a handful of Dimock residents, in accordance with a legal agreement it signed with DEP. But when the company fulfilled its end of the deal by paying more than $4 million to the affected families, the state agency told Cabot it no longer had to supply water. Deliveries stopped on December 1.
According to StateImpact’s gas well-tracking app, Dimock has seen more drilling violations than any other municipality in Pennsylvania.
More from Newsworks:

Dimock resident Craig Sautner said an EPA representative called his wife on Friday to say a private contractor would be delivering water to them. The next day, they got another call saying the water would not be coming.
“Our heart just sank,” Sautner said, “We’re tired of this roller-coaster ride, we feel like we’re getting ahead now, we’re going to get some nice clean water, and then all of a sudden it gets pulled out from underneath us again.”
Two other Dimock residents told the Associated Press they got similar calls, but the EPA would not comment on them.

In addition to vacillating on whether or not to deliver water to Dimock, the EPA has shifted its stance on the community’s water quality. Earlier this year the agency sent a letter to Dimock residents, saying it had reviewed water samples, and “[the data] does not indi­cate that the well water [in Dimock] presents an imme­di­ate health threat to users.”
In late December, however, the EPA reopened its investigating, stating new information “merited further investigation.”  Scranton Times-Tribune reporter Laura Legere covered the EPA shift, writing:

“The EPA is now ‘concerned about’ potential gaps in water sampling and test results, the number of water supplies potentially affected, if residents that need them have alternate sources of fresh drinking water, and if residents have any more data to share.The agency is also surveying residents about the depth, age and history of their private drinking water wells.”

Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer, who has a long history of opposing federal intervention in environmental issues he feels should be regulated by the state, declined to comment on the EPA’s renewed interest in Dimock’s methane problems.

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