Luckily Norma Fiorentino wasn’t home on January first 2009 when her water well exploded. It blew a concrete slab six feet across her yard and started a firestorm of media coverage and investigations that remain controversial to this day. The tiny Pennsylvania town of Dimock has never been the same.
A state investigation turned up at least nineteen polluted water wells. Gas drilling and fracking had caused stray methane gas and other chemicals to invade the area’s aquifer. The state’s regulator issued an order for Cabot Oil & Gas to stop the migration of gas into the aquifer and filed a lawsuit against the company. Nineteen families joined in a lawsuit against Cabot. Cabot agreed that they did pollute the aquifer when they signed the state’s 3 Consent Orders. Later, Cabot decided they had nothing to do with the contamination.
The Environmental Protection Agency stepped in in 2012. Though their initial testing showed high levels of contamination, in a controversial move, EPA did further limited analysis and declared the water in Dimock was safe to use and drink. Yet, using the same data set, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found unsafe levels of contamination. The ATDSR finally released their report in 2016, leaving residents wondering who to believe.
In 2009 Pennsylvania’s state regulator, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), placed a ban on all of Cabot’s drilling and fracking in a nine mile square area around the contamination site. Late in 2012, DEP lifted that ban to allow gas wells that had been drilled in 2008 to be hydraulically fractured (fracked). At least one case of contamination of a water well was reported just after fracking occurred. DEP admits at least 243 water wells in Pennsylvania have been impacted by gas drilling/fracking from 2007 – 2014.
Many families in the Dimock contamination area still don’t have clean water for their homes to this day. Some use Ray Kemble’s water truck to fill the huge water tanks (called water buffaloes) residents have to keep filled themselves. In winter, these have to be heated to keep the lines from freezing. Yet the gas industry sill claims not one case of water contamination from the gas boom has ever occurred. Cabot Oil & Gas still denies their extraction activities had any effect on the area’s water quality and has waged a campaign to lie about the event.