Dimock residents ask: ‘What will we do for water?’
On November 30, residents of Dimock who had been receiving deliveries of water from Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation were scheduled to lose that source of fresh water in the latest round of a miserable situation that has left them to cope with contaminated water wells for nearly three years.
The outcome is a far cry from the solution proposed by the last secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), John Hangar, in October 2010, which promised the construction of an $11.8 million, 5.5-mile water main to restore water to the Dimock residents from the Lake Montrose treatment plant. The evolvement has left residents bewildered, angry and feeling as if they’ve been abandoned by the state agency they must rely on to protect their drinking water.
Resident Craig Sautner is so frustrated that he has resorted to placing daily calls to current DEP secretary Michael Krancer, Governor Tom Corbett and to DEP officials Scott Perry and Craig Lobbins. Sautner said he’s never heard directly back from Krancer or Corbett and that Perry and Lobbins have stopped speaking with him.
Instead, Sautner said he received a phone call from “Patrolman Wiley” of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police, threatening him with arrest for harassment if he persisted in calling. In a follow-up call he placed to Corbett’s office, Sautner said he was told that calling more than one time every three weeks may constitute harassment.
In support of the Dimock families, groups such as WaterDefense.org are asking citizens to begin placing calls to Krancer and Corbett expressing their concerns about the resolution of the situation. In the action “Occupy Harrisburg Phone Lines Rally to Fix Dimock’s Water Now,” Craig Stevens, of Marcellus Patriots For Land Rights and a sixth-generation landowner in Silver Lake Township, is urging callers to request that DEP require continued water delivery and restoration of the well water to original or better condition.
Corbett and Krancer are also invited to attend a rally in Dimock on December 6. “If the governor and secretary think the water is safe, they should come and drink it,” said Stevens. Details about the rally will be available at www.frackthemovie.com or www.waterdefense.org/#1 or facebook.com/events/219982004741861.
The officials have also received a letter from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) calling for “immediate revocation” of the Dimock decision and stating that it is “beyond the scope of the department’s legal authority under state law to terminate the water delivery.” NRDC senior attorney Kate Sinding notes that the PA Oil and Gas Act requires that those who contaminate a water supply must “restore or replace the affected supply with an alternate source of water adequate in quantity or quality.”
Meanwhile, questions remain. How have DEP and Cabot determined that the private water supplies Dimock residents must now resort to for drinking and bathing are safe to use? How should the affected well owners obtain fresh water following the termination of deliveries? What constitutes harassment of a public official?
These questions and others have been posed to appropriate officials. Calls or emails placed to Corbett, the Pennsylvania Capitol Police and Cabot spokesman George Stark were not responded to by press time. In response to multiple questions posed to Krancer, a response was received to one seeking DEP’s official stance on the Dimock water termination.
DEP Director of Communications Katy Gresh forwarded a link to a response Krancer made to an editorial appearing in the Chambersburg Public Opinion on October 21 in which Krancer writes that the agency was guided by “a legal agreement dating to the previous administration.” Visit http://files.dep.state.pa.us/OilGas/OilGasLandingPageFiles/DimockChamber... to view the letter.