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EPA in Dimock, PA, Urging Residents to Participate in Survey

Officials with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were in Dimock Township, PA on Thursday and Friday, asking residents to participate in a voluntary survey to address "potential gaps in sampling and sample results."

Although the EPA did not elaborate as to why the survey was needed, local sources said agents met with several households in the Carter Road area of the township with contaminated water supplies.

"They met with me for about an hour and a half last night," Ronald Carter Sr. told NGI's Shale Daily on Friday. "It was just a home and well survey, [but] they said that some new things had come to light. I don't know what they were talking about. They had been provided with more water samples [and] are going around interviewing people in this area."

EPA spokesperson Terri White confirmed to NGI's Shale Daily that agents had distributed an information sheet during their meetings with residents.

"EPA has recently received and reviewed hundreds of pages of Cabot [Oil & Gas Corp.] data supplied to the agency by Dimock residents," White said Friday. "While EPA is not in a position to make any conclusions about the data we have in hand because there are gaps, we believe that additional information is needed to better understand the situation in Dimock and respond appropriately. Therefore, EPA is considering next steps including conducting some sampling of well water in the area. We will evaluate the sampling results and share them with the residents, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Cabot."

Victoria Switzer, one of the affected residents who met with the EPA on Thursday, said the agency also wanted to determine the number of drinking wells potentially impacted by contamination and if residents had access to treatment systems or alternate sources of drinking water.

"We're very pleased that the EPA has extended this olive branch to us," Switzer said, adding that she and other residents were still furious with the EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for their assertions that Dimock's water was safe to drink (see Shale Daily, Dec. 7, 2011; Sept. 6, 2011). "What they did to us is horrific."

Cabot spokesman George Stark told NGI's Shale Daily that the company was made aware of the EPA's steps in December.

"We will provide them all the data we have collected over the past years," Stark said Friday. "If there are data gaps, they exist due to lack of access to sample the water, not from lack of trying. Cabot is confident that the water meets federal drinking water standards, is committed to installing state of the art treatment systems and resolving this matter."

Eleven households in the Carter Road area of the township had been receiving potable water from Cabot for months, and in some cases, years, following the explosion of a private water well on Jan. 1, 2009. The DEP investigated and said Cabot was responsible for methane contamination in water wells serving 19 households, a charge the Houston-based company denies.

Cabot settled the issue with the DEP in December 2010 without accepting blame, but nevertheless agreeing to pay the affected residents $4.1 million and provide whole-house gas mitigation systems. Eight of the households agreed to the settlement, but 11 households found the company's offer insufficient and filed a lawsuit in federal court while receiving potable water from Cabot (see Shale Daily, Dec. 17, 2010).

In October the DEP said Cabot could discontinue the water deliveries by Nov. 30 because the company had satisfied the terms of the settlement. A Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board judge affirmed that decision in a ruling on Nov. 30 (see Shale Daily, Dec. 2, 2011; Oct. 20, 2011).

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