A natural-gas driller can stop delivering replacement water to residents whose drinking water wells suffered from methane contamination.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. has been delivering water to homes in the northeast village of Dimock, PA, since January of 2009. The Houston-based energy company asked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for approval to stop the water deliveries by the end of November, saying Dimock’s water is safe to drink.
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DEP granted Cabot’s request. Scott Perry, the agency’s acting deputy secretary for oil and gas management, wrote that since Cabot has satisfied the terms of a December settlement agreement requiring the company to remove methane from the residents’ water, DEP “therefore grants Cabot’s request to discontinue providing temporary potable water.”
Residents who are suing Cabot in federal court said their water remains tainted with unsafe levels of methane and possibly other contaminants from the drilling process. They say DEP had no right to allow Cabot to stop paying for replacement water.
Regulators previously found Cabot drilled faulty gas wells that allowed methane to escape into Dimock’s aquifer. The company denied responsibility, but cannot drill in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock since April of 2010.
Along with its request to stop paying for deliveries of water, Cabot asked the department for permission to resume drilling in Dimock, a rural community about 20 miles south of the New York state line where 18 residential water wells were polluted with methane. DEP has yet to rule on that request.
Philip Stalnaker, a Cabot vice president, said tests show the residents’ water to be safe to drink and use for cooking, bathing, washing dishes and doing laundry. He said any methane that remains in the water is naturally occurring but Cabot is willing to install mitigation systems at residents’ request.