Dimock, Pennsylvania residents may be on the least fun roller-coaster ride ever.
For nearly three years, 11 families with tainted water wells in the small town received daily deliveries of bulk and bottled water from Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.
The natural gas company began arranging for the water deliveries after it was blamed for polluting the families' drinking water. But back in November, the payments stopped, leaving residents fending for water on their own.
Vanity Fair reported that shortly after drilling operations began near one family, their water turn so brown it stained the laundry. Their daughter experienced dizzy spells which left her lying on the floor, and their son developed sores lining his legs. Pennsylvania's DEP found that the family's water contained high levels of methane.
According to the Associated Press, regulators previously connected Cabot's drilling to high methane levels in Dimock's water wells. Although the company denied responsibility, they were banned from drilling near Dimock.
Cabot stopped paying for the water deliveries this November, as approved by Pennsylvania's environment department. This sparked outrage among many activists, and sent residents scrambling for access to water that they would consider safe to drink.
Last Thursday, an EPA spokeswoman told Reuters that after receiving more data from Dimock residents, "EPA is considering next steps including conducting some samples of well water in the area."
According to Water Defense, this past weekend, EPA Region 3 officials told Dimock residents that the EPA would provide them with clean water, and then reneged on the offer a day later. In an e-mail to the Associated Press, EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said, "We are actively filling information gaps and determining next steps in Dimock. We have made no decision at this time to provide water."
Meanwhile, residents again felt they had been slighted, as Dimock resident Craig Sautner told AP, "You can't be playing with people's lives like this." His well was found to be polluted in 2008, shortly after Cabot's drilling operations began nearby.
On Tuesday, health experts wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urging her to protect the residents of Dimock by continuing to investigate the water wells contamination and by providing them with access to safe drinking water. The letter was signed by over 20 health experts at a conference on fracking health risks, sponsored by Physicians Scientists and Engineers for Health Energy (PSE) and the Mid-Atlantic Center for Children's Health and the Environment (MACCHE).
The letter states:
In the face of the complete abdication of responsibility by the polluter and the state of Pennsylvania, it is incumbent upon EPA to ensure that these families have access to safe, potable water.
We are 65 percent water by weight. Drinking water becomes our blood plasma, our cerebral spinal fluid, our sweat, and our tears. It is the steam of our exhaled breath on a cold winter’s day. There is no other human right as fundamental as the right to clean water, which is the right to life itself.
The timing is notable -- the letter was sent on the same day that President Obama praised the EPA, remarking, "You help make sure that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat are safe."
Actor and Water Defense founder Mark Ruffalo joined the call for action, stating in the group's press release, "Truth, like fracking fluid, has a way of finding its way to the surface. History will not be kind to elected officials who choose to side with corporate interests over the health and well being of the constituents they are supposed to protect."
But will the present be kind to the residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania?