Finally, Some Real Good News for Dimock - EPA to Deliver Water and Begin Independent Testing

An announcement yesterday from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brought a welcome patch of good news for the residents of Dimock: the federal agency will use its authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilty, Act (also known as “Superfund”) to begin immediate deliveries of temporary fresh water to four Dimock families whose wells were contaminated by the careless drilling practices of Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation and begin independent well water testing at those homes and 57 others in the area to discover if additional water deliveries are needed (see EPA’s Action Memorandum here).

For those just tuning in, families in Dimock have been without reliable access to fresh water since December 1st , when the Pennsylvania Department of Environment allowed Cabot to stop deliveries of daily fresh water despite the fact that local water was still contaminated.  EPA’s decision – which comes after rallies by grassroots organizations and letters from NRDC and other environmental organizations urging the use of emergency authority – is based upon previously conducted water testing results showing, among other things, that Dimock wells contain a slew of highly toxic and dangerous pollutants, including arsenic; barium; bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, a plasticizer commonly called DEHP; glycol compounds, which are used in antifreeze; manganese; phenol, a disinfectant; and sodium.

Despite the fact that many of the results reviewed by EPA come from PADEP’s own Bureau of Laboratories, PADEP showed no signs of concern for residents’ health after it allowed Cabot to shut down water deliveries in December.  Indeed, PADEP Secretary, Michael Krancer, even sent a letter to EPA criticizing the agency’s knowledge of Dimock as “rudimentary” and basically telling EPA to mind its own business.  EPA’s determination yesterday that the chemicals found in Dimock wells do present a hazard to human health and its subsequent swift action demonstrate that protecting the health of all Americans from environmental contaminants is the agency’s business, and reinforce EPA’s critical role when the state leaves its citizens out to dry.

Looking forward, we hope that EPA completes its own testing of Dimock wells as expeditiously as possible and provides emergency fresh water to any additional families potentially at risk of drinking contaminated water.  Ultimately, however, it is not EPA who under federal law should be responsible for the Dimock water bill, but the “person” who was found to have contaminated that water in the first place: the Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation.

We hope too that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation takes notice of the trials and travails of Dimock residents during its review of the estimated 40,000 plus comments it received last week on its environmental impact study and proposed regulations for new fracking in New York.  Pennsylvania rushed to frack, and toxic water (not just in Dimock, but across the state) is what they have to show for it.

In the meantime, hat’s off to EPA for finally providing at least some Dimock residents with the relief they deserve!


*This blog was co-authored by legal fellow Dan Raichel