ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania environmental regulators said Wednesday they have given permission to a natural-gas driller to stop delivering replacement water to residents whose drinking water wells were tainted with methane.
Residents expressed outrage and threatened to take the matter to court.
Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. has been delivering water to homes in the northeast village of Dimock since January of 2009. The Houston-based energy company asked the Department of Environmental Protection for approval to stop the water deliveries by the end of November, saying Dimock's water is safe to drink.
DEP granted Cabot's request late Tuesday, notifying the company in a letter released Wednesday morning. 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 say their water is still 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.
Bill Ely, 60, said the water coming out of his well looks like milk.
"You put your hand down a couple of inches and you can't see your hand, that's how much gas there is in it. And they're telling me it was that way all my life," said Ely, who has lived in the family homestead for nearly 50 years and said his well water was crystal clear until Cabot's arrival three years ago.
If Cabot stops refilling his 550-gallon plastic "water buffalo" that supplies water for bathing and washing clothes, Ely said it will cost him $250 per week to maintain it and another $20,000 to $30,000 to install a permanent system to pipe water from an untainted spring on his land.
Ely and another resident, Victoria Switzer, said their attorneys had promised to seek an injunction in the event that DEP gave Cabot permission to halt deliveries. The attorneys did not immediately return an email and phone call seeking comment.
THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS!!