In case you haven’t been paying attention to the news the last few weeks, Dimock and Susquehanna County have made it into the spotlight yet again. We have been impressed to see some accurate information making its way into the headlines but there’s still a lot of information that gets left out. With that we take a moment to get you up to speed on the latest developments in Dimock. Read on to see what’s been going on in this well known Susquehanna County town.
No More Water Deliveries
The first piece of information to hit the news came out on October 18th when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released a letter declaring that Cabot Oil and Gas had fulfilled all obligations required under their consent decree and therefore no longer need to deliver water to affected Dimock residents beginning November 30. Despite claims by some litigants there, DEP has followed procedure, stuck to the science, and has made it known that the 18 wells included in the Consent Order have been cleaned up both with and without treatment! Don’t take my word for it though, feel free to examine the water test results here and an explanation of anomalies in water tests here.
Following the announcement by DEP Cabot worked to inform affected households in the area of the development. A copy of Cabot’s letter to residents explaining the halting of water deliveries follows:
As you know, Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation has been providing temporary supplies of fresh water to many residents in the Dimock area for many months and, in some cases, for years. During the past few months, at my direction, Cabot has undertaken a careful review of this temporary water supply situation. Now that those studies are complete, and now that the Department has determined that Cabot has satisfied the terms and conditions of the Consent Order and Agreement (the “COSA”) regarding the provision of temporary potable water, we have concluded that it is appropriate to discontinue the temporary water supplies. We have consulted with DEP regarding this determination, and by letter dated October 18, 2011, the Department approved the discontinuation of providing temporary potable water to your home.
To the extent that you have any concern with the detectable presence of methane in your water well (as you know, there are no known health effects associated with the ingestion of water containing methane), Cabot either has installed or remains willing to install a whole-house methane mitigation water treatment system for Property Owners. The whole-house methane mitigation water treatment system removes methane from the water to a level of 5 mg/l (5 parts per million) or less.
This is your written notice that, for a period of sixty days, a professional plumber will be available to reconnect water well supplies at no expense to the Property Owner.
Further, this is your written notice that, for a period of sixty days, a professional plumber will be available to install a whole-house methane mitigation water treatment system, again at no expense to the Property Owner.
Homeowners who accept this offer, in writing, prior to November 30, 2011 will continue to receive temporary water supplies until the work is completed, unless Cabot determines that any delay in scheduling the work is the result of failure to allow access on a reasonable schedule.
Some homeowners have not permitted Cabot’s consultants to test their water supplies or have failed to allow access on a reasonable schedule. For those Property Owners who refuse to allow testing of their permanent water well supply, Cabot will immediately discontinue delivery of water, and will not wait until November 30, 2011 to discontinue delivery of fresh water.
Just to be clear: 1) if you already have a whole-house methane mitigation water treatment system, the temporary potable water will be discontinued as soon as a professional plumber reconnects your water well supply; 2) if Cabot is installing a whole-house methane mitigation water treatment system and for some legitimate reason the work is delayed beyond November 30, 2011, then you will continue to receive temporary potable water until the system is installed; 3) once the whole-house methane mitigation water treatment system is installed, the temporary water will be discontinued; 4) if you fail to make arrangements for a professional plumber to reconnect your water supply or if you request a methane removal system and fail to allow access on a reasonable schedule, then temporary water will be discontinued on November 30, 2011; and 5) if you refuse to allow Cabot’s consultants to test your permanent water well supply, Cabot will immediately discontinue delivery of potable water, and will not wait until November 30, 2011 to discontinue delivery of potable water.
Please return the enclosed form to indicate how you wish to proceed.
Media Still Lacking Facts
Media reports following the release of the letter were littered with mis-information which prompted Cabot to release a statement to provide accurate accounts of their operations and the situation over the last few years.
A review of media reports of the DEP decision printed or broadcast show a misunderstanding of the facts. Provided below are facts associated with the Cabot decision to assist you in understanding our rationale for making our request to the DEP. Here are some key facts for your information and consideration:
- The affected area is a nine square mile section near the town of Dimock. Some residents within this area reported issues with their drinking water. Other residents living in this area reported no drinking water impact.
- Out of the 18 residences mentioned above, the owners of 11 are suing Cabot for an undisclosed amount of money for damages. Cabot has offered, and where owners have cooperated, has conducted extensive testing by DEP-approved, state-certified professional laboratories on these wells. Cabot has released the most recent data to the DEP for review.
- It should be noted that Susquehanna County is rich with anecdotal evidence of pre-existing methane in water which dates back decades before the industry was present. Subsequently Cabot conducted extensive pre-drill testing and found that 80% of water sources in the region have a detectable level of methane, supporting these stories.
- Based on this information, Cabot offered DEP-approved water treatment systems to affected residents to reduce the methane levels in their water. All of the homeowners who accepted the methane treatment systems have seen a 96%-98% reduction in methane concentrations.
- Unfortunately, Cabot and its contractors consistently encountered uncooperative homeowners, all of whom are now engaged in litigation against the Company. The litigants have refused access to their property so that Cabot could conduct the testing mandated by the DEP. Even with the sparse testing of the litigants’ wells, Cabot has been able to demonstrate that they meet Federal Safe Drinking Water standards. Cabot has made available all testing documents associated with its sampling. These are the same documents provided to the DEP last week as part of Cabot’s petition. The documents can be viewed by visiting the Cabot website at www.cabotog.com.
Cabot has also offered the media an opportunity to see how a water sample is collected, to speak to an owner whose water is being sampled, and to ask questions of the technician gathering the sample. In addition, we offered to schedule a visit to their office to conduct a desk-side discussion on all of the matters described in this memo.
In the interest of correctly reporting on this story it is my hope that all interested members of the press take Cabot up on their offer to witness water sampling and testing procedures first hand. Doing so is important to understand the processes employed in gaining unbiased scientific data on water wells, and their composition, in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
Cabot, whose goal has been to remain transparent in their actions with those involved and the public, placed an advertisement in local papers to share some key facts with the community on developments in Dimock.
Secretary Krancer Speaks Up
As mentioned earlier, some recent reporting regarding the situation in Dimock Township has been light on facts and heavy on speculation and inflammatory rhetoric. One publication’s errors were so egrecious it prompted Mike Krancer, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, to set the record straight.
Your newspaper’s Oct. 21 editorial, “DEP decision on Dimock water was premature,” ignores the reality that our decision was governed by the facts and the law.
We were guided by a legal agreement dating to the previous administration. Its terms have nothing to do with fear or emotion, or the timetable of the citizens’ pending lawsuits in other arenas. Importantly, all who are part of that agreement and who want a water treatment system for their well can have one, and many residents already do.
That agreement also required Cabot to satisfy specific water provision obligations and meet certain requirements before they could stop providing water. Cabot satisfied those requirements, and the law, in turn, requires DEP to follow its obligations — which we have done.
The real issue here is not safety; it’s about a very vocal minority of Dimock residents who continue to demand that taxpayers should foot the bill for a nearly $12 million public water line along Route 29 to serve about a dozen homes. This issue has, and continues to, pit neighbor against neighbor in Dimock.
Your readers deserve to know these facts.
Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
Thank you Secretary Krancer for ensuring this discussion continues based on facts and science and not fear perpetuated by the media and groups of individuals refusing to comply with the Consent Order in Dimock, associated water testing and the acceptance of treatment systems that would fix their water.
Positive Community Impacts
What rarely makes it into the news about Cabot, Dimock or Susquehanna County are the positive impacts the natural gas industry and Cabot Oil and Gas are having on the community. The company hosted a picnic earlier this year that attracted over 6,000 attendees and maintains a robust committment to the community through direct aid to non-profit organizations, the financing of roadway improvements and of course by developing and fostering an environment where jobs and economic opportunities for local residents are plentiful. Here’s a great example from a recent article by WBNG in Binghamton.
This is just one small example of the investments and progress that safe and responsible development of natural gas is bringing to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
The facts are at hand and a strong majority of Dimock residents, including folks like Esther Rayias, strongly support the lifting of the 9-square-mile moratorium prohibiting further development in the area! Esther and her neighbors are tired that this vocal minority who willingly, knowingly and enthusiastically breaks the law are continuing to prohibit the safe and responsible development of natural gas that would greatly benefit the town of Dimock and its residents. We look forward to continuing to report good news and developments out of Dimock, PA and remain hopeful that the next update we provide will highlight an announcement from DEP that natural gas operations can continue in the area where the moratorium currently exists.