Driller to stop water to families in Dimock, Pa.

Posted: December 01, 2011

Families in a northeastern Pennsylvania village with tainted water wells will have to procure their own water for the first time in nearly three years as a natural gas driller blamed for polluting the aquifer moves ahead with its plan to stop paying for daily deliveries.

Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. ended delivery of bulk and bottled water to 11 families in Dimock on Wednesday. Cabot asserts Dimock's water is safe to drink and won permission from state environmental regulators last month to stop paying for water for the residents.

A judge Wednesday declined to issue an emergency order compelling Cabot to continue the deliveries. The judge, who sits on the state's Environmental Hearing Board, set a Dec. 7 deadline for arguments on a second, related petition filed by lawyers for the families.

The decision left residents who do not think their water is safe scrambling to find alternate sources.

"We are in desperate need here," said Scott Ely, 42, who is married with three young children at home.

State regulators previously determined that Cabot drilled faulty gas wells that allowed methane to escape into Dimock's aquifer. The company denied responsibility but has been banned from drilling in a 9-square-mile area of Dimock since April 2010.

A Cabot spokesman said Wednesday that the company had worked diligently to resolve the problems.

"Cabot has reconditioned water wells, drilled new water wells and installed treatment systems that work properly and effectively," George Stark said via e-mail. "Additionally, we have tested the water and the results have as proven the water meets federal safe drinking water standards."

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