Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Water Fights in Dimock

This morning I turned on my tap and filled up my teapot with water from my well. I cooked oatmeal. I washed my face with warm water. And not once did I have to worry about checking the water level in my tanks, rationing bottles for the week’s cooking and wondering whether I could afford to pay for water deliveries next week.

photo by Kathy Cronin, Sierra Club
Drive an hour southeast, just 50 or so miles away, and the story is different. Eleven families in Dimock, PA ration every drop of water they’ve got. Because last week Cabot Oil & Gas cut off water deliveries to their homes. Water deliveries that replaced the well water contaminated by methane migration from leaky well casings in three of Cabot’s wells.

But Cabot, and DEP have decided that now, after three years, the water is “good enough” to drink. It’s not, writes Kate Sinding who characterizes this water as an “alphabet soup of dangerous contaminants, including lead, beryllium, iron, manganese, and non-naturally occurring chemicals associated with fracking such as bis (2-Ethylhexyl) adipate, bis (2- Ethylhexyl) phthalate, and ethylene glycol.” While Cabot has offered to install “whole house methane treatment systems” in the affected homes, but those systems not only don’t target many of the contaminants at issue but, experts say, don’t work in homes with  high iron content in the water – like so many of the homes in Dimock.

NY Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton was outraged by Cabot’s decision to cease water deliveries. “These gas-drilling companies seem to be expert at evading responsibility, and clearly, states seem to have a very hard time holding these companies to account,” she told the press Monday. “The Declaration of Universal Human Rights says that access to clean water is a basic human right, one that has been taken from our neighbors just south of here. It’s a moral outrage and I will continue to work to prevent the terrible situation that the people in Dimock are now experiencing from happening in New Yorkers’ backyards.”

photo by Kathy Cronin, Sierra Club
This Monday and Tuesday good Samaritans delivered water to the Dimock waterless. On Monday the Sierra Club paid to have a truck deliver water from Binghamton. Tuesday saw another truck arrive – this one from NYC, accompanied by celebrities and a hundred volunteers who delivered cases of bottled water and helped top off the plastic tanks lovingly referred to as “water buffaloes”.

The people of Dimock are grateful for the kindness. But this is a temporary fix at best. Cabot broke their dependable groundwater supply and they want Cabot to fix it. Cabot refuses; they insist the water is not contaminated, citing a recent email from EPA stating that water sampling data provided by some of the residents failed to show that contaminant levels exceeded federal drinking water standards.

Apparently that was good enough for DEP and the agency gave Cabot permission to stop paying for the water deliveries. 

The devil is in the details. Although the data does not indicate that the well water presents an immediate health threat to users, Trish Taylor (who works in the EPA’s hazardous site cleanup division in Philadelphia) told the press that EPA is not giving Dimock a clean bill of health.

The agency needs more data, she said. “We have a very finite amount of data that was provided to us by these residents and by DEP. It’s not a broad statement at all about sampling results.”

So, back to the good Samaritans delivering water…. On Monday night Binghamton mayor Matt Ryan offered to supply water to the residents as a temporary measure until they can work out a permanent solution.  But for one municipality to help another requires a mutual aid agreement – something the town councilors of Dimock are adamantly against. Not only that – other residents of Dimock vociferously protested the idea that anyone should be delivering water to their needy neighbors.

Said one Dimock resident, “Those who represented the Enough Already group shouted down everyone who tried to speak in defense of those who do not have water or who tried to explain why they wanted to bring water including Mayor Ryan - and the township supervisors allowed it. They were vile, rude, laughed at them… it was a really despicable performance. I can't believe they would treat their neighbors like that no matter how they felt about them. Why do they care if people want to bring water to them and their children?”

Why indeed. You can see for yourself how they behaved, courtesy of this video posted by Energy in Depth

To read past posts on this issue just click on the Dimock label over in the right-hand column.

1 comment:

  1. Energy in Depth is a pro-gas propaganda site so I was curious to see why they chose to post a video of gas supporters behaving very badly. Simple answer, they applaud it. And go on to smear Josh Fox and RFK jr as charlatans (see which point I stopped reading.
    Since all these upstanding citizens - including the supervisors - claim their is nothing wrong with their neighbors' water, I can't help but wonder how many of them have drunk any or given it to their children to drink. Or have bathed themselves or their kids in it. Having seen samples of the stuff, I'd be very surprised if they did.

    They obviously have a lot of mouth but will any of them prove that they actually believe what they say?