Natural gas debate: Proposed water pipeline pits neighbor against neighbor in Dimock

Natural gas debate: Proposed water pipeline pits neighbor against neighbor in Dimock by Jon Campbell, November 27, 2010, The Ithaca Journal
DIMOCK, Pa. — Months of contentious debate. Ruined water wells. National attention. And a lawsuit. Just when it looked like the natural gas-drilling divide among residents in Dimock Township couldn’t get any worse, it did. A proposed $11.8 million plan to construct a 12.5-mile water pipeline from Montrose to 14 homes in the Carter Road area of Dimock has further split the already divided region. On one side are the affected homeowners vigorously defending their right to clean water; on the other are some area businesses and residents balking at the hefty price tag. “It has pitted neighbor against neighbor,” said Ron Carter, the namesake of Carter Road who joined the lawsuit against Cabot Oil & Gas after his water well became contaminated with methane. “I hate to see it, but that’s what it has done.”

A group of area residents and businesses who call themselves “Enough Already,” got 1,500 people to sign a petition urging the state to use common sense when it comes to the pipeline. “Nobody doesn’t want to see them have clean water,” said Don Lockhart, a member of the group who owns a gas station and lunch counter in South Montrose frequented by drilling workers. “But they haven’t looked at the other options. There are other ways to fix this that don’t cost $12 million.” … Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said the state will “aggressively go after” Cabot for reimbursement, pointing to a pair of documents the company signed acknowledging consent for the contamination. According to Hanger, the pipeline is the only way to ensure a permanent clean water supply. In October, the company sent a 36-page document to the department claiming its innocence and outlining other methods it believes could remediate the water issue at a lower cost, including drilling new water wells and installing water purification systems. The company has thus far refused to pay for the pipeline project, and has disputed the validity of the consent orders because they were threatened with a statewide shutdown of their operations. The matter is likely destined for a courtroom.

“They’re spending over $700,000 per family,” Lockhart said. “There has to be a better way. This isn’t the answer.”

“They’ve called us everything in the book,” Carter said. “They said we’re liars, we’re thieves, we’re out for the money. The wife and I are getting frustrated.” For now, Carter and Jean, his wife of 50 years, depend on a storage tank and bottled water delivered by a company hired by Cabot. Their well water remains unusable. Carter said they have discussed leaving the property they have lived on for nearly five decades, but he doesn’t want to leave his family and doesn’t have anywhere else to go.

“The other options aren’t permanent,” Carter said. “All everyone is doing is focusing on the money, but we just want to know that we’ll have clean water.”

Lockhart took a different view. “I think (Corbett’s) going to squash it,” Lockhart said. “That’s what we hope, at least.”

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