Federal authorities have ruled that the drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania, which some claimed had been contaminated by nearby natural gas drilling efforts, is safe to drink. The statement lends some factual weight to a political debate wrought with emotion and more than the occasional doom-and-gloom proclamation.
Dimock has become a lightning rod in the fight against the natural gas extraction technique hydraulic fracturing. Anti-natural gas activists have used the town in a years-long campaign to prevent the practice, which they insist contaminates drinking water supplies.
But the Environmental Protection Agency says otherwise. The EPA sent an email to Dimock residents informing them of the agency’s findings regarding the state of the town’s drinking water supply. “While we are continuing our review,” Community Involvement Coordinator Trish Taylor wrote, “to date, the data does not indicate that the well water [in Dimock] presents an immediate health threat to users.”
That finding supported claims by Cabot Oil and Gas, which has been sued by Dimock residents. A judge from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently ruled that Cabot had satisfied its requirements under the law to provide potable water to Dimock residents, and the company has announced plans to discontinue water deliveries.
EPA’s findings comport with administrator Lisa Jackson’s previous statements regarding the effects – or lack thereof – of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. Earlier this year, Jackson told a House committee that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”
Scott Perry, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, echoed that position. “There has never been any evidence of fracking ever causing direct contamination of fresh groundwater in Pennsylvania or anywhere else,” Perry said in April.
Despite these findings, Cabot has offered to install methane treatment mechanisms free of charge in any Dimock household that requested one. “I know contamination,” declared one resident who had such a system installed, “and there’s none in Dimock!” That resident also boasts a professional background in water quality.
Nevertheless, anti-natural gas activists continue the campaign against hydraulic fracturing in and around Dimock. Actor Mark Ruffalo and Josh Fox, director of the anti-natural gas documentary “Gasland,” will hold an event at Dimock city hall on Tuesday to protest the state DEP’s decision and the continued use of hydraulic fracturing.