Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. officials on Tuesday came out swinging against "facts and inferences made in wire and published reports," which claim that several toxic chemicals recently had been found in water samples taken near the company's natural gas drilling operations in the Dimock Township area in Susquehanna County, PA.

In April the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) suspended its review of Cabot's pending drilling applications statewide and barred the producer from drilling new gas wells for at least a year in the Dimock Township area because of contaminated groundwater (see Daily GPI, April 19). Mitigating gas from Cabot wells is believed to have contaminated groundwater and drinking water supplies for 15 homes in the area, and the producer was ordered by the state to install permanent treatment systems in the affected homes. Some area residents since have sued the company.

The latest reports, said the Houston-based producer, claim that xylene, ethyl benzene and toluene had been found in water samples taken from properties on Carter Road in Dimock Township. However, Cabot "has not used any of the above-mentioned chemicals for hydraulic fracturing in its operations near Carter Road and has scientific data to confirm this," the producer stated.

"The media reports include claims of affected water by a local water tester, Daniel Farnham, who is working for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Cabot, and Victoria Switzer, one of the plaintiffs in that suit." Cabot officials said they reviewed the water sample results analyzed by Farnham before it began drilling in the area in 2008.

"These sample results confirm the presence of many of these chemicals in water samples taken from Carter Road properties in 2008, prior to natural gas well drilling in the area," company officials said. "Cabot notes an automobile and truck repair garage is situated near the properties tested. All of the chemicals mentioned in the media reports are commonly used in automotive fluids.

"Xylene, ethylbenzene and toluene are primary constituents of car and truck fuel and are the chemicals relied upon by the Pennsylvania DEP (PA-DEP) to investigate and clean up gasoline spills. A published article also reported that Ms. Switzer claims she and two of her neighbors have experienced 'soapy water.' Surfactants, the active ingredient in consumer soap products, were also present in the 2008 samples taken by Farnham & Associates from properties in the Carter Road area."

According to Cabot officials, Farnham is reported to have seen "troubling spikes" of contaminants this past summer after it rained. "He is reported as saying this is the result of a 'disturbed aquifer.' Cabot notes that hydraulic fracturing occurs approximately a mile beneath these shallow freshwater aquifers. Experts agree that there is no possible connection between deep hydraulic fracturing and these aquifers, and also agree that spikes of contamination after rainfall are indications of surface spills. Extensive testing performed this year in cooperation with the PA-DEP has confirmed that Cabot's operations have not caused any such surface contamination."

Since launching operations in Susquehanna County in 2006, Cabot officials noted that they had invested more than $500 million in the area and "created more than 300 full-time jobs through company staff additions, and those of its vendors and suppliers. Cabot operates its facilities in full compliance with environmental and oil and gas drilling regulations and continues to implement measures to achieve our goal of zero incidents."

Company officials also said Cabot "remains committed to safe and secure operations in Susquehanna County, to being a good neighbor in the many communities in which it operates, and to being a responsible corporate citizen."

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