SPRINGVILLE, Pa. (AP) — A new water main will provide something residents of a rural Pennsylvania community have been without for the past 14 years — a clean, reliable supply of drinking water — after a public utility on Tuesday released the first details of a plan to mitigate the damage caused by a gas drill.
The tiny intersection in northeastern Pennsylvania, about 15 miles from the New York state line, gained national notoriety after residents were filmed lighting their tap water in the 2010 Emmy-winning documentary Gasland.
Pennsylvania American Water said it plans to drill two wells — what it calls a “public aquifer system” — and build a treatment plant that will remove any contaminants from the water before sending it to about 20 homes in Dimock, one of the largest locations notorious pollution cases ever to emerge from the US drilling and fracking boom.
“Pennsylvania American Water is pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the Attorney General’s Office to develop a safe drinking water solution for Dimock residents who, like all of us, deserve access to clean, safe, reliable and affordable drinking water. ‘ Dan Rickard, the utility’s chief technical officer, said in a statement.
Dimock residents were briefed on the plan Monday night at a meeting with Pennsylvania American Water and senior officials from the Attorney General’s Office, which is filing criminal charges against the drilling company blamed for contaminating Dimock’s aquifer.
Local residents declined to comment Monday night as they left the meeting at a high school near Dimock, saying they were ordered not to speak by a prosecutor.
“Our office remains focused on restoring clean drinking water to residents of Dimock with our limited resources,” Jacklin Rhoads, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said in a statement Tuesday. “Yesterday, our attorneys, along with Pennsylvania American Water, updated affected residents on the status of the case and the extensive independent research that was conducted with one goal – how best to bring clean water to their homes.”
Further details of the water pipeline plan, including its cost and whether the drill, Coterra Energy Inc., will bear the financial burden as part of a criminal case settlement, were not publicly disclosed Tuesday.
Residents of Dimock have used bottled water, commercially purchased water and even water from streams and artesian wells and said they don’t trust the water from their wells.
The Attorney General’s Office intervened in June 2020 and filed criminal charges against the former Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. A after a grand jury investigation found the company had failed to repair its faulty gas wells, which were leaking combustible methane into water supplies to residential areas in Dimock and surrounding communities.
Cabot, which recently merged with Denver-based Cimarex Energy Co. to form a new company, Coterra Energy Inc., has long claimed the gas is naturally occurring in residents’ water. It faces a total of 15 criminal charges, most of them felonies, including illegal disposal of industrial waste and unlawful conduct under the state’s Clean Streams Act.
The company — the most productive drilling company in the country’s No. 2 natural gas-producing state — said Tuesday it was working to solve the criminal charges.
“Coterra remains committed to reaching an amicable resolution with the Attorney General’s office. We continue to work toward a solution that is productive and beneficial to the community and landowners,” said George Stark, a company spokesman.
Pennsylvania American, meanwhile, was involved in the state’s 2010-aborted effort to connect residents of Dimock to an existing municipal water system about 6 miles (9.6 km) away.
A dozen years ago, state environmental agencies secured nearly $12 million in funding for the project — and promised to sue Cabot to get the money back — but were forced to, under legal threats from the company and local officials, who dubbed it the Boondoggle to back down. Instead, Cabot agreed to pay residents a total of $4.1 million and install individual water purification systems.
However, some residents say the systems never worked properly, forcing them to buy bottled water for drinking and cooking and receive larger water deliveries for showering, dishwashing and toilet flushing. The same residents flatly rejected a proposal by the attorney general’s office last December that Cabot pay for the installation of new treatment systems.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro won the state’s gubernatorial election this month and will take office in January.
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