In an effort to provide relief to families who say they've been left with no potable drinking water in Dimock, Pennsylvania, activists and local leaders shipped roughly 5,700 gallons of fresh water supplies by bus Tuesday from New York City's city hall.
Several environmental conservation groups including the Sierra Club, Water Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council, and local celebrities like Mark Ruffalo, shipped New York water to 11 families whose water wells have been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing. Those same families say they were left without drinking water after their weekly shipments of water were halted last month by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
Dimock has been at the front lines of the hydraulic fracturing debate, and it has garnered international attention.
For the past three years, Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation was responsible for providing weekly water supplies to the families in Dimock after the company contaminated wells with hazardous materials including flammable gas. But that requirement was waived as of Nov. 30, when the quality of the water in the wells was deemed safe to drink by Pennsylvania state officials.
It's a claim Craig Sautner, whose well he claims was contaminated in September of 2008, disputes, and has vocally opposed pronouncements made by his state's DEP.
Since October of 2009, Sautner and his family lived off a 550 gallon tank supplied by the oil company after the family's well water appeared turbid, smoky, and bubbly, Sautner said. Without the tank, his home has no other source of water except for a local spring seven miles away. Pennsylvania's DEP ruled late that month that Cabot was to close the nearby well and provide 11 families with drinking water.
"I have to get this out there," Sautner told the International Business Times. "If we can save one family from all of this, we've done our jobs."
The Sautners, who signed a lease with Cabot in June of 2008 allowing the company to extract natural gas from underneath their property, along with 10 other litigants, have been trying to hold the company accountable and ensure they have a clean source of water.
It's an effort that has proven harder than expected. Despite having his home outfitted with water filtration systems and new plumbing at the expense of the company, Sautner maintains his water is too toxic to use.
In the fall of 2010, Sautner and the other litigants suing Cabot were told a $12 million water main was going to be built from a nearby town to service their homes. But Dimock residents rallied and helped kill the project after they opposed the use of public financing to fund the waterline. The line would have been funded through a loan by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority that recycles previous loan repayments to help fund water projects in the state.
Colleen Connolly, a spokesperson with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said the water wells were deemed safe to drink in November after the company met certain health requirements.
She added the department was simply observing an agreement struck between the state's former governor and the company which required the DEP to relieve the company of its water deliveries.
Connolly also said the water in the wells of the residents falls within water quality guidelines as outlined by the federal Clean Water Act.
"The issue here is about a very vocal minority that wants tax payers to foot the bill for a $12 million water line," Connolly said.
That's shared by Mike Krancer, the secretary of the DEP in an October editorial where he stated the department had to abide by its agreement.
Calls to Cabot oil were not returned by press time.