Cabot buys second methane polluted residential property in Dimock 12-acre parcel on Carter Road flanked by faulty gas wells

Cabot buys second polluted residential property in Dimock 12-acre parcel on Carter Road flanked by faulty gas wells by Tom Wilber, November 22, 2013, Shale Gas Review
Cabot Oil & Gas has closed a deal for a second residential property affected by chronic methane pollution in the heart of its prolific gas operations in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The Texas-based company paid Michael Ely $140,000 for the 12-acre property that includes a doublewide modular home, according to records filed in Susquehanna County Courthouse Wednesday.  The property – now vacant — borders the intersection of the south end of Carter Road with State Route 3023 in Dimock Township. The state Department of Environmental Protection has identified at least two malfunctioning gas wells operated by Cabot bordering the property, including the Gesford 3 well, several hundred yards to the north off Carter Road, and the Costello 1 well, just to the south off Route 3023.

The agency has forbidden Cabot to drill more wells in a nine-square mile area around the intersection until the company resolves problems with these and other shale gas wells that – according to the DEP inspectors – are causing methane pollution. The former Ely property sits less than a mile south from another polluted residential property on Carter Road that Cabot bought for $140,000 from Craig and Julie Sautner last year. Cabot demolished the three-bedroom ranch in September and sold the empty lot to a neighbor for $4,000. The new deed includes a clause – called a land covenant — that forbids residential dwellings on the property. Cabot bought both the Sautner and Ely properties through a subsidiary called Susquehanna Real Estate 1 Corp.

The former property of Mike Ely is part of a larger swath owned by generations of the Ely family since 1858. Bill Ely, Mike’s father, lives in the family’s large ancestral colonial home near the banks of Burdick Creek, which runs under a bridge connecting Carter Road with Route 3023. Bill Ely and his wife, Sheila, are among families in the area that depend on bottled water. Bill told me he has no intention of selling his 19th century house to the company, even though his water is not drinkable. “I’m not leaving” Ely said Thursday. “My family’s been in this home for generations.”

Hazards found in some residential water wells include methane, arsenic, bacteria, and various heavy metals that occur naturally. Methane can make water flammable and pose risks of explosion in wellheads and enclosed spaces. Arsenic, heavy metals, and bacteria can cause illness. Drilling can open pathways that allow contaminants to move through the ground, but the extent to which this happens is open to scientific and legal interpretation. Cabot continues to challenge the DEP findings publically with claims the contaminates are a result of naturally-occurring phenomenon. The DEP began investigating problems in the region after a residential water well on the north end of Carter Road exploded at the home of Norma Fiorentino on January 1, 2009….

DEP officials explained it differently. They had not pinpointed a source for the problems affecting three homes near the well, including the Ely properties. But they had determined that the suspect Costello gas well was “unviable” and would have to be plugged. In an email response to my query earlier this fall, DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connolly reported that Cabot was ”continuing remedial efforts” at the Costello gas well and “evaluating the effectiveness” of the work.  Methane levels were fluctuating, she said. Additionally, tests had shown levels of iron and manganese that were elevated but within standards in some water samples. Elevated levels of these elements are “not uncommon during gas migration,” she reported. [Emphasis added]

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