Monday, March 14, 2016

Federal jury awards $4.2M to last plaintiffs in battle over contaminated rural Pa. drinking water

"A federal jury on Thursday found Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. responsible for contaminating two Susquehanna County water wells through its natural gas drilling operations and awarded the families a total of $4.24 million," Laura Legere reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Dimock Township (Post-Gazette map) families "were the last plaintiffs in a high-profile case that began in 2009 and originally included 44 of the rural town’s residents who claimed shoddy Cabot wells drilled early in the Marcellus Shale gas boom allowed methane and other constituents to migrate into their drinking water."

"A state investigation that began in 2009 concluded that Cabot was responsible for contaminating 18 Dimock water supplies with high levels of methane and metals," Legere  writes. "Residents had complained of brown, fetid water that was so full of gas it would cause a lit match to burst into flame. That drew the attention of federal regulators, the international press, celebrities, filmmakers and anti-fracking activists to the tiny community, which was described as a cautionary tale for other regions hoping to capitalize on advanced but invasive extraction technologies to release oil and gas from stubborn shale formations. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection barred Cabot from drilling new wells in a 9-square-mile section of the township in April 2010."

The other families settled in 2012, reports Reuters. Dimrock was featured in the 2010 documentary "Gasland" that "showed local residents lighting their tap water on fire because of the high amount of methane it contained." Lawyers for Cabot "argued in court that the methane occurred naturally and was not caused by the company's drilling operations" and the "groundwater, while aesthetically displeasing, was safe to drink."

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