You may as well read this here, because it will be hard to find at places who push the "controversial" shale gas narrative. It will also be hard to find at those places who tell you to watch Gasland, which pushed the notion that all of Pennsylvania had become a wasteland, instead of the more prosaic reality that only residents of one road in one tiny village had raised any serious issues. Something obviously did happen in Dimock PA, but can one point to what happened in one street as inevitable consequence of shale production everywhere?

The Readers's Digest version of the story is that back in 2009 Cabot Petroleum did mess up and water from the well bore contaminated the aquifer that provided drnking water to private wells on Carter Road in Dimock. (Note: less than 1% of UK residents get water from private wells).  

The less than twenty residents were offered a deal in late 2010 where they received twice the value of their homes in a settlement that notably did not discover anything serious enough that future.gas drilling was forbidden. Eight of the families settled, followed by three more and now we're down to 11 families.The Dimock wells were drilled and finished and by last summer proved to be prolifically productive. In fact some of the residents are getting multi thousand dollar checks every month so they can use them to protest against the process. I'm not saying it's wrong, but ..... Similarly one of the litigants who is being poisoned can't be that concerned: They are building a 5,000 sq ft new home on Carter Road.

Earlier this year the EPA studied the water yet again, and yet again:

 Well-water tests of 20 more homes in the embattled natural-gas drilling town of Dimock, Pa. showed no contamination levels "that present a health concern based on risk assessments," a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday.

"This set of sampling did not show levels of contaminants that would give EPA reason to take immediate action," said Roy Seneca, a spokesman in EPA's regional office in Philadelphia.

The test results reinforced initial findings the EPA released last month on its tests of 11 other residential water wells in the Susquehanna County township, the epicenter of a clash between opponents and supporters of natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale formation.

EPA in January announced it would test 61 Dimock water wells and deliver water to four homes after some residents complained their water was contaminated by gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The residents, some of whom have sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. over drilling, said state regulators had improperly allowed Cabot to halt delivering fresh water supplies to some homes.

But so far, the EPA's tests have not differed remarkably from the tests conducted by the state, which showed some contaminants, but none that could be definitively linked to gas drilling or fracking. Three of the newly-tested wells showed methane while one showed barium above the EPA's maximum level.

"This data confirms the earlier EPA finding that levels of contaminants found do not possess a threat to human health and the environment," said George Stark, a spokesman for Cabot.

Anti-drilling activists said the results still show the wells are unhealthy. "EPA's test results continue to show what Dimock residents have claimed for years: the water is contaminated," said Claire Sandberg, a spokeswoman for Water Defense, a New York activist organization.

 There's really only one way to settle this. Go to Dimock, drink some water and see if I live to tell the tale. Which I will be doing later on this April. 

 

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  • Just a small point but it is a bit misleading to emphasise that very few people in the UK get their water from private wells. While that is undoubtedly true, the water companies which supply the vast majority of the population do use groundwater sources extensively. For example, I believe Thames Water get around two thirds of their supplies from groundwater.<br />Hopefully, as competent and professional experts, any industry concerns will be confined to clear technical issues.

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