Over Six Years of Water Contamination: The Timeline of Dimock, PA 

On September 11, 2008, Craig and Julie Sautner, who lived on Carter Rd in Dimock Township at the time, first notified Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection that their tap water wouldn't run clear. PA DEP told them to notify the driller, Cabot Oil and Gas, which almost immediately installed a water buffalo at their home and began to provide regular water deliveries. Video

The most high-profile event happened on January 1, 2009, when Norma Fiorentino’s back yard water well blew up.

ProPublica profiled the incident:
Norma Fiorentino’s drink­ing water well was a time bomb. For weeks, work­ers in her small north­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia town had been plumb­ing nat­ural gas deposits from a drilling rig a few hun­dred yards away. They cracked the earth and pumped in flu­ids to force the gas out. Some­how, stray gas worked into tiny crevasses in the rock, leak­ing upward into the aquifer and slip­ping qui­etly into Fiorentino’s well. Then, accord­ing to the state’s work­ing the­ory, a motor­ized pump turned on in her well house, flicked a spark and caused a New Year’s morn­ing blast that tossed aside a con­crete slab weigh­ing sev­eral thou­sand pounds.
Fiorentino wasn’t home at the time, so it’s dif­fi­cult to know exactly what hap­pened. But after­ward, state offi­cials found methane, the largest com­po­nent of nat­ural gas, in her drink­ing water. If the fumes that built up in her well house had col­lected in her base­ment, the explo­sion could have killed her.
It was presumed by PA DEP that Cabot Oil and Gas' Marcellus Shale drilling activity had caused thermogenic methane to travel into 10 water wells in Dimock Township and fined the company $120,000. In a 23-page consent order signed by Cabot dated November 4, 2009, the PA DEP stated “the pres­ence of dis­solved methane and/or com­bustible gas in the 10 Affected Water Sup­plies occurred within six months of com­ple­tion of drilling of one or more of the Cabot Wells. As such, Cabot is pre­sumed to be respon­si­ble for the pol­lu­tion to these 10 Affected Water Supplies.”

The DEP order forced Cabot to provide potable water to ten households, stop all drilling in the area, improve its’ casing procedures, and submit a plan to permanently restore residential water supplies.
Cabot was ordered by PA DEP to stop all use of hydraulic fracturing in Dimock Township and to provide water to impacted residents until a permanent source of potable water was found.

On November 19, 2009, 15 Dimock families filed a lawsuit against Cabot in federal court. News

A second consent order including additional families was issued by PA DEP on April 15, 2010.

On September 30, 2010, then-secretary of the PA DEP John Hanger announced in Dimock that an $11.8 million, 9 mile water line from Lake Montrose would be built to Dimock, funded by the public Pennvest fund. He also promised that Cabot would be sued by PA DEP to restore money into the fund. Video

In October, the Pennvest board approved the water line with a vote of 11-2. $11.8 million was set aside in an escrow account accessible for Penn American water for construction costs.

In November, Republican Tom Corbett was elected governor of Pennsylvania.

On December 15, 2010, the water line project was cancelled and a third and final PA DEP consent order was issued. The order forced Cabot to give residents twice the tax assessed value of their homes or $50,000 whichever was greater. This was a settlement between PA DEP and Cabot, without the residents' consent or consultation. The doc­u­ment did not include water test­ing for the 18 impacted water wells as a cri­te­ria for Cabot to stop pro­vid­ing clean water to the 19 impacted households.
Instead, Cabot had to ful­fill the fol­low­ing obligations:
  • deposit the set­tle­ment money into escrow accounts
  • notify the fam­i­lies and DEP that the money was available
  • install a “gas mit­i­ga­tion device” (a water fil­ter) at each residence
After his tenure in the Rendell administration ended in January 2011, former PA DEP Secretary John Hanger left to work for Eckert Seamans, an oil and gas law firm and member of the industry's Marcellus Shale Coalition.

Residents continued to have water delivered by Cabot until December 1, 2011 when PA DEP canceled water deliveries by approving Cabot's installation of methane separators and filtration systems in Dimock residents' homes as a solution, despite murky evidence present in the tap water of those same residents.

On December 5, 2011 Mayor Matt Ryan of Binghamton NY came to the Dimock Township Supervisors meeting to offer a mutual aid agreement where Binghamton would provide water deliveries to fill buffaloes of the impacted families. The township supervisors refused. All three supervisors have gas leases and friendly relations with Cabot.

On December 6, 2011 the "Water for Dimock" rally was held in the Sautner's driveway with actor Mark Ruffalo and thousands of gallons of water were delivered by New York and Pennsylvania neighbors to highlight the desperate situation Dimock residents faced. The Hydroquest Dimock Hydrogeology Report was released. Video

Water deliveries and donations continued to flow into Dimock as more neighboring communities organized support. Shohola Elementary School students raised over 1,200 gallons that were delivered to Dimock, Franklin Forks, and Sonestown PA where water contamination has taken place. News and Video

On January 13, 2012, then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson held an unrelated town hall in Philadelphia and Dimock residents attended to demand action. Following that town hall the residents marched to EPA Region 3 offices and refused to leave the lobby until an EPA official met with the Dimock families. News and Video

Also on January 13, Penn American Water opened access to a water hydrant at their Lake Montrose facility for Dimock residents to fill water trucks locally to supply their families.

By the end of January only four households were receiving EPA water deliveries under their jurisdiction outlined by the Superfund Law, despite an initial promise for eight households and a total of 19 households listed in the PA DEP consent order.

During spring 2012, the EPA continued to gather extensive test data from the 64 water wells in Dimock.

In June 2012, Josh Fox's documentary Gasland began touring and was shown on HBO in July, nationalizing the Dimock story.

Through July, the EPA continually issued summaries of the results stating the Dimock water was safe to drink, without releasing the data files to be independently reviewed.

On July 22, 2012 EPA headquarters in Washington issued a desk statement declaring Dimock water's safe to drink.

Shortly after, Dimock residents suing Cabot for damages settled a lawsuit out of court and signed non-disclosure agreements, or "gag orders", stopping them from ever speaking about the situation, Cabot, or their business partners again.

Later in July, Ray Kemble, who refused to sign the gag order, received a contradictory report from EPA with additional test result summaries indicating that his water was not safe to drink, including dangerous levels of radioactivity.

In August 2012, PA DEP lifted the moratorium on Cabot for drilling and fracking in Dimock Township.

In September 2012, Cabot received two new river water withdrawal permits from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to supply their renewed fracking operations in Dimock. The SRBC voting members, Govs. Corbett (R-PA), O'Malley (D-MD), Cuomo (D-NY) and President Obama (D), approved the withdrawals despite escalating campaigns by activists during the campaign season to solicit a denial. Protests, phone calls, e-mails, and petitions were unsuccessful in receiving a response from the Obama campaign.

On December 27, 2012, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson unexpectedly announced her resignation, stating no specific motivation for leaving her post. She currently works for Apple.

On March 23, 2013 Michael Krancer, PA DEP Secretary under Governor Corbett, resigned and went back to work for Blank Rome, the oil and gas law firm he emerged from.

Summer 2013, Gasland Part II relates the Dimock story since the first film by touring and screening on HBO. www.gaslandthemovie.com

On July 27, 2013 the LA Times reported the EPA had covered up evidence before closing its investigation into water contamination in Dimock. News 

On July 30, 2013, conservative bloggers report that two EPA whistleblowers have come forward with documentation that Lisa Jackson was personally involved in the decision to shut down the study in Dimock via e-mail discussions in which she used a fake name. News

On August 13, 2013 Ray Kemble and Craig Stevens journeyed from Dimock to Washingtion to deliver 50,000 petition signatures calling for the EPA to reopen its investigation in Dimock PA, Parker County TX, and Pavilion WY, which were all canceled or abandoned. Campaigners also demanded water deliveries for impacted residents and a permanent water source for their homes. News  

John Hanger is currently the Secretary of Policy & Planning for Governor Tom Wolf, despite intense criticism of his handling of the Dimock situation on the campaign trail.

The trial date for the remaining Dimock litigants is set for November 30, 2015. It will be a federal jury trial and take place in Scranton. Fundraising is ongoing and you can read more here.

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