Dimock families sue natural gas driller

Dimock families sue natural gas driller by Laura Legere, November 20, 2009, Times-Tribune
Fifteen families in Susquehanna County filed a federal lawsuit against Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. on Thursday, saying the Texas-based natural gas operator damaged their property and health while drilling for gas in the Marcellus Shale. The families, who live in an area around Carter Road in Dimock Twp. and have gas leases with Cabot, say contamination and pollution caused by Cabot’s activities has made some of them physically sick, fouled their drinking water and diminished their property values. Cabot has been cited by the state Department of Environmental Protection for causing at least seven separate spills at and around well sites in the county since September 2008. Earlier this month, the state agency also fined the company $120,000 and ordered it to develop a plan to provide 13 families in a 9-square-mile area around Carter Road with permanent drinking water supplies after faulty cemented casings and excess pressures in the company’s gas wells caused methane to leak into the groundwater. … The families’ complaint cites many of the environmental violations that have been noted by DEP, but also alleges the company caused other problems, including a fire in the vent of Michael and Andrea Ely’s water well and illnesses of the nervous system, digestive system and skin. The complaint alleges Cabot’s spills involved discharges of hazardous chemicals, including more trimethylbenzene – a product sometimes used in the hydraulic fracturing of gas wells – than is allowed in statewide health standards for saturated soil, and aluminum and iron in amounts that exceed DEP’s water quality criteria. It also alleges that blood tests for at least one of the family members revealed “results consistent with toxic exposure to, for example, heavy metals.”

Along with environmental and health damages, the families claim Cabot violated the terms of their leases by not fully conducting water testing to make sure the drilling was not harming local drinking water supplies, not returning residents’ water supplies to their pre-drilling condition once they were polluted, and making “untimely, irregular and declining” gas lease royalty payments “without opportunity or mechanism to verify their correctness or accuracy.” The families are seeking a clean up of all contamination, health monitoring and compensatory damages, according to the complaint. Leslie Lewis, one of the attorneys representing the families, said the residents were driven to file the suit because of the extent of the disturbance around them. “It’s a courageous step that these Carter Road families are taking,” [Emphasis added]

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