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EPA Says 20 More Water Wells in Dimock Tested Safe

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Friday that 20 water wells in Dimock Township, PA -- collectively its second round of water quality testing -- did not reveal any signs of contamination from natural gas drilling.

EPA's latest findings come about three weeks after the agency said water samples taken from 11 households in the Carter Road/Meshoppen Creek Road area of the township also found no levels of contamination from drilling (see Shale Daily, March 19).

In a statement, the agency said it had shared its findings -- contained in a 324-page report -- with Dimock residents, and indicated that regulators with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) would be contacted, too.

"This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give [us] reason to take immediate action," the agency said. "[We are] committed to providing Dimock residents with the best available data and information on the quality of drinking water as expeditiously as possible."

EPA officials said in January the agency would take water samples from about 61 homes in the Susquehanna County community, much to the chagrin of the DEP and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., which both maintained that Dimock's water is safe (see Shale Daily, Jan. 27; Jan. 23). The EPA had previously agreed with DEP and Cabot that Dimock's water was safe, but last December it reversed its position and was asking residents to participate in an EPA survey (see Shale Daily, Jan. 3).

In a written statement, Cabot said the EPA's findings through two rounds of testing were "consistent with literally thousands of pages of water quality data accumulated by state and local authorities and by Cabot. Importantly, the EPA again did not indicate that those contaminants that were detected bore any relationship to oil and gas development in the Dimock area, particularly given the fact that any contaminants are more likely indicative of naturally-occurring background levels or other unrelated activities."

In January the EPA said previous water samples taken from four homes in the Carter Road area were cause for concern, and promised to deliver water to the homes until additional testing was completed.

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 company denies.

Cabot settled the issue with the DEP in December 2010 without accepting blame but 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).

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

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