News Release: EPA participates in Blue Mountain tree planting project at Palmerton Zinc Superfund site

PHILADELPHIA (May 22, 2013) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and three partner organizations are planting 5,500 new trees on 70 acres of mountainside at the Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site along the Appalachian Trail in Palmerton, Pa. that will be in place by Memorial Day.

“EPA is proud to be part of this tree planting venture that helps transform a previously barren and contaminated site into a beautiful ecological vista along the Appalachian Trail,” said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

This is the second year of tree planting, which is the final step in re-vegetating Blue Mountain – – a joint effort involving EPA, the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the American Chestnut Foundation. The area had suffered extensive environmental damage that was caused by years of emissions from zinc smelting operations in the Borough of Palmerton.

Last spring about 8,350 trees were planted. Before the tree planting, EPA and the National Park Service oversaw grass planting and other re-vegetation on a 500-acre section of the site that had to be done from aircraft due to the steep slope and remote location.

National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach noted, “This is an excellent example of how collaborative public and private partnerships can have a meaningful and positive impact for the environment.”

Initially the trees will be protected by deer-proof fencing. The trees include a special mostly American, potentially blight-resistant generation of American chestnut which can help re-establish these trees in the eastern United States. Once prevalent in forests throughout the eastern United States, American Chestnuts were nearly wiped out by a blight causing fungus that was introduced around 1900.

“We are impressed by the interagency cooperation on this project and excited about the prospect of American Chestnuts once again flourishing on the Appalachian Trail,” said American Chestnut Foundation’s Sara Fitzsimmons.

In addition to the chestnut trees, various oaks, Black Gum, Sumacs, Chokeberry and Sweet Ferns will be included. Planting the seeds, seedlings, bare roots and rhizome cuttings will require drilling holes with an auger. The holes will be filled with top soil and a nursery mix.

The tree planting is being paid for by CBS Inc., formerly Viacom International, and the party potentially responsible for the contamination. More information on the Palmerton site see EPA’s website: .

Contact: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543

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Five spills reported at gas pipeline sites

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: May 11, 2012

DALLAS TWP. – The state Department of Environmental Protection is monitoring a series of drilling mud spills at a natural gas pipeline installation.

Chief Gathering LLC, recently bought out by PVR Partners, hired contractors to install a pipeline to connect natural gas wells in Susquehanna County to the Transco interstate pipeline in Dallas Township.

Since May 1, there have been five spills of more than 6,000 gallons of water containing bentonite, a type of clay used in drilling operations, at two different Dallas Township sites: Leonards Creek on Kunkle Road and Upper Demunds Road and Goodleigh Road, outside Goodleigh Estates, according to a report from DEP. On Thursday, crews sucked up the mud at the Upper Demunds Road site using vacuum trucks.

Chief’s Vice President of Industry Affairs Kristi Gittins said releases of mud at pipeline boring sites are not uncommon and “we plan for them and we deal with them.” No chemicals or additives were used, she said.

DEP has been to the site and approved remediation plans, Gittins said. She said Chief is providing information to DEP and the agency does regular follow-up visits.

The DEP report shows five “inadvertent return to surface” incidents involving drilling mud with bentonite coming up from the ground at two horizontal drilling sites.

The first occurred at 8:30 a.m. May 1, with 50 gallons of mud released at a wetlands next to Leonards Creek on Kunkle Road. It was contained at the site. The next day at the same site 20 gallons escaped containment but did not impact the creek. Then again on May 2, 200 gallons overflowed at the site. It was also cleaned up, DEP reported.

In the fourth incident, on Monday, about 1,000 gallons of bentonite was spilled and drilling mud was discovered coming from an old springhouse between Kunkle Road and Leonards Creek. Not all the bentonite was contained at the time, and DEP reported the creek was cloudy. By Thursday, most of the bentonite was cleaned up.

The fifth incident occurred Saturday, when 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of bentonite was lost in wetlands about 200 feet off Upper Demunds Road, according to DEP. The drilling mud was contained on the site with hay bales and is being removed by a vacuum truck.

The Upper Demunds Road spill occurred outside an upscale development where the pipeline installation created controversy.

Several Goodleigh Estates residents sued their neighbors for leasing Chief a right-of-way, asking Luzerne County court to stop the pipeline construction on the grounds it violated the development’s covenants and would create a nuisance.

Chief was not named in the suit, but the company sued the residents, claiming their efforts to delay the pipeline could cost the company from $683,000 to $18 million or more. Chief also asked them to pay damages for making “defamatory and malicious” statements about the company in local media and on Facebook.

Chief and the residents came to an agreement in November that dismissed the suits.

Under the undisclosed terms of the agreement, the residents are prohibited from commenting about Chief., 570-821-2072

Driller fined for Northern Tier releases

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)
Published: February 10, 2012

State environmental regulators have fined Chesapeake Appalachia $565,000 for three incidents at Northern Tier natural gas well sites, including an April 2011 wellhead failure in Bradford County that released thousands of gallons of wastewater into a nearby stream.

The company paid $190,000 for the failure during hydraulic fracturing of the Atgas well in Leroy Township as part of an agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

The April incident took six days to fully control and caused the company to suspend its Pennsylvania fracking operations for three weeks, regulators said. It drew national attention and raised concerns about the safety of the gas extraction process.

“The governor and I expect the highest standards to be met and when they are not, we take strong enforcement action,” DEP Secretary Michael Krancer said in a statement. “We will continue to be vigilant on that front. The protection of the state’s water is paramount.”

Environmental regulators found elevated levels of salts and barium at the confluence of a nearby stream and Towanda Creek on the day after the Bradford County spill but saw the contaminants decline to background levels over several days, DEP said.

Chesapeake continues to perform groundwater monitoring at the site. Sampling over four months showed results consistent with groundwater quality in the region, according to regulators. The company said the incident caused no lasting environmental impact.

The penalties announced Thursday also include $160,000 in fines for building a North Towanda Township well pad with “extremely high, steep slopes” in a wetland without permission, DEP said. Heavy rains in October 2010 caused part of the pad’s slope to fail, sending sediment into Sugar Creek and other small streams and wetlands.

Chesapeake removed the fill from the wetland and must build about three acres of replacement wetlands as part of its agreement with DEP.

Chesapeake also paid $215,000 for a March 2011 incident in Potter County, where sediment from an access road and well site ran off into a high-quality stream during heavy rain. The sediment clogged the water-treatment filters at the Galeton Borough water supply plant downstream, requiring $190,000 in repairs and upgrades that were paid for by Chesapeake, DEP said.

The company blamed a “pre-existing, poorly maintained logging road” for most of the sediment.

In a statement, Brian Grove, Chesapeake’s senior director of corporate development for the region, said the company “worked proactively with all appropriate regulatory agencies throughout the response and analysis of these incidents to achieve compliance, identify and implement operational improvements and ensure proper resolution.”

The company has enhanced its operations because of the incidents, he said.

Old gas wells bring risks of chemicals

TIMOTHY PUKO Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
January 17, 2012

PITTSBURGH — Almost all of the 20 homeowners in Belmar pay to run a water chlorination system to replace what was free well water from an Allegheny River aquifer. In the 1980s, an oil driller polluted the water, in part, they believe, by dumping waste brine into abandoned oil wells that could date to the 1800s, when Edwin L. Drake set off the boom by tapping his famous well in Titusville.

Today the latest gas-drilling rush in the Marcellus Shale may bring an opportunity to plug many of those old wells, but it also brings the risk that old wells could create a path for gas and chemicals to migrate into soil and water.

“The whole area up here is like Swiss cheese,” said Howard Weltner, 80, secretary-treasurer of Belmar Association Inc., which operates the treatment system. “It just has holes through all the different strata in the ground, so there’s an awful lot of opportunities for contamination of the groundwater. And I think a lot of people are concerned about it, and a lot more communities are getting a public system” to replace water wells.

Most of the state’s abandoned wells are in western Pennsylvania. They arc though McKean, Venango and Butler counties and, in smaller clusters, around the Pittsburgh area.

Unplugged wells pose risks of illegal dumping, water pollution, cave-ins, gas seepage and even explosions, but the state can afford to plug only about 130 a year. At that rate, it could take the state more than 61 years to plug the 8,262 remaining wells that officials know about, and more than 1,350 years to plug the rest — if crews could find them.

In the past, drillers abandoned wells because there was no rule that said they couldn’t. Companies that no longer exist cannot be held liable.

The rejuvenation of the fuel-drilling industry in Pennsylvania could provide a chance to deal with abandoned wells, officials say. With the backing of Gov. Tom Corbett, the Senate and House in November passed preliminary bills that would establish “impact fees” on the industry, and some of that money would be put toward plugging old wells.

Drillers pay a surcharge when they obtain permits, which amounts to about $1.5 million annually that the state uses to plug wells, according to DEP figures. The cost of plugging can vary. DEP contracts since 2009 have ranged from as little as $3,027 per well to as much as $194,082, an agency spokesman said.

The Senate’s bill, which proposes higher well fees than the House measure, would generate an additional $25 million annually for statewide environmental projects that would include well plugging, mine drainage cleanup, parks and water quality monitoring.

“We’re trying to tie in ancient environmental problems with new development, which is fantastic,” said David Strong, a Jefferson County environmental scientist who sits on several of DEP’s citizen advisory boards. “We can find new money to fight these old problems.”

It’s in the industry’s interest to help solve those problems, said Strong and several others, including industry officials. One of the biggest problems is finding most of the abandoned wells. If a company unwittingly drills a well near an abandoned well, it can create a path for gas to flow uncontrolled to the surface or into groundwater, costing profits and causing a safety hazard.

Even if an old and new well don’t cross, gas migrating from deep wells can reach abandoned ones and cause contamination through natural fissures, or if man-made seals don’t hold, Smith said.

“Drilling through the rocks that have previously sealed in the formation … a lot depends on the efficiency of those borehole seals in preventing any leakage,” Smith said.

“If there’s any leakage from a Marcellus well, there’s potential for it to make contact with an old, abandoned oil and gas well.”

The issue could become problematic for drillers as they explore the edges of the Marcellus shale play where the oil industry once operated, such as Butler and Venango counties and the northwestern part of the state, industry officials said.

It is not an issue right now for Royal Dutch Shell plc, which operates in western Butler County, but company officials know it could be if they move into “natural expansion” areas such as Venango County, said Bill Langin, who leads Shell’s Appalachian exploration.

40 Tamaqua property owners given 60 days to connect to sewer system
Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Exposed PVC pipe lies behind the Tamaqua Public Library leading into the Wabash Creek.

Forty Tamaqua property owners are being given 60-day notices to stop discharging wastewater directly to the Wabash Creek culvert and to connect to Tamaqua’s municipal sewer system. The work is to be done at property owners’ expense.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an order to the borough last December to investigate and remove all illegal sewage discharges to the creek, which runs under downtown Tamaqua from South Lehigh Street to Rowe Street and then to South Railroad Street.

The deadline to comply with this order is Aug. 31.

The borough hired Alfred Benesch Company and A One Service, Shenandoah, to investigate both the Wabash Creek and Panther Creek, which runs through eastern portions of Tamaqua, for the sources of any possible illegal sewage discharge, aka wildcats. Inspections of the creeks were performed between March 1 and March 31. Initially, 56 connections were found to have active sanitary connections to the Wabash Creek culvert, with dry residue indicating recent sanitary connections.

Investigators used special equipment and cameras. The notice, given to affected property owners about a month ago, states, “In accordance with the DEP order and Borough Ordinance No. 304, you are hereby notified to stop discharging sewage to the Wabash Creek and connect your property to the municipal sewer system within 60 days of your receipt of this notice.”

Receiving the notice were homes and business owners on South Lehigh Street, West Broad Street, Spruce Street, Rowe Street and South Railroad Street. The notice also states that if a property owner fails to correct the illegal sewer discharge within 60 days of receiving the notice, the matter will be referred to the code enforcement officer and borough solicitor for legal action.

Some property owners are upset with the short notice and unexpected financial burden this has placed on them. Ann Brose, 249 West Broad St., said that it will cost approximately $7,000 to connect to the sewer system.

“I have to pay to dig into the second lane of SR209 to hook up to the sewer. I never knew my sewage wasn’t connected to the borough’s system,” adding, “I want to do what’s right, but not 30 years after I purchased my house.”

Brose, who pointed out that she doesn’t qualify for low interest loans, added, “I’ve paid the borough $9,200 over 30 years for sewer and now I have to pay to connect to a sewer system I thought I was already connected to.” Brose and other affected property owners are expected to attend tonight’s borough council meeting to bring up their concerns.

A summary of required steps was also given with the notice. The summary lists detailed instructions concerning steps required to connect to the borough’s sanitary sewer system, as well as a Building Sewer Permit Application. Current sewer customers do not have to pay the borough’s $2,000 first-time sewer connection charge.

Low and moderate income property owners may qualify for financial assistance for construction of their sewer connection. Kevin Steigerwalt, Tamaqua borough manager, stated that property owners can save on construction expenses by consolidating contract work with other affected property owners.

Assistance may be available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Schuylkill Community Action and the Tamaqua Borough’s Community Development Department. Affected residents are encouraged to contact Steigerwalt or Rob Jones, Tamaqua public works director, at (570) 668-3444 or (570) 668-0300 with any questions or concerns.

Construction of waterline, $2.5 million penalty in Ivy Park agreement

Published: June 4, 2011

The companies responsible for contaminating groundwater in four Lackawanna County municipalities must install a waterline for as many as 500 homes and will be fined $2.5 million, the Department of Environmental Protection announced Friday.

The consent order and agreement with Bostik Inc. and Sandvik Inc. comes six years after officials discovered groundwater contaminated by volatile organic chemicals. The chemicals were traced back to the companies’ facilities in the Ivy Industrial Park in Scott and South Abington townships.

Since then, residents have fought for clean water.

The DEP has worked with Pennsylvania American Water Co. to develop the initial design of a large-scale waterline project in the investigated area, according to the DEP. Bostik and Sandvik will pay $20  million for the project.

The groundwater source will be outside the affected area, and 500 homes will be eligible to connect to the more than 21 miles of water mains. In the area, 218 homes already have carbon treatment units.

Homeowners who connect to the new system would need to abandon their existing wells to eliminate the effects of the contamination continuing to migrate in the geology of the area, according to the DEP.

“We believe this is what’s in the best interest of the community and the company,” said Ray Germann, a spokesman for Bostik.

Installation of the waterline should start next summer and should take nine to 12 months to complete, he said.

In a press release, Sandvik stated that it had worked with the DEP, local communities and other stakeholders to evaluate environmental conditions in the area.

“The company has been diligent in responding to the requests of regulators and the needs of the community during this period, and is pleased to resolve these issues in a productive manner through these agreements with the commonwealth. Sandvik will continue its efforts along with Pennsylvania DEP, Bostik, Inc. and Pennsylvania American Water Co. to establish a new water system for the community.”

The companies have also agreed to reimburse DEP $1.7 million for its investigatory costs through June 2010, along with all future costs related to the site. The agreement with the DEP did not address payments to individual property owners.

In 2005, officials discovered that groundwater near Ivy Industrial Park was contaminated with trichloroethylene, or TCE, and tetrachloroethylene, or PCE. TCE has been known to cause several types of cancer as well as neurotoxicity, developmental toxicity, liver toxicity and kidney toxicity if it is ingested or absorbed through the skin, according to reports issued by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The investigation, which included sampling more than 500 private wells, determined that levels of TCE and PCE from Bostik and Sandvik had impacted groundwater in parts of Scott, Abington (now Waverly), North Abington and South Abington townships.

A DEP spokeswoman said that Metso Paper USA Inc., another industrial park tenant, did not contribute to the contamination and will not be penalized.

The settlement will be discussed at a public meeting at the Lakeland High School auditorium on Wednesday, July 13, at 6:30 p.m. A 60-day public comment period begins today.

The consent order and agreement and the consent assessment of civil penalty are available for review at DEP’s Northeast Regional Office in Wilkes-Barre by calling 826-5472 to make an appointment. The documents are also available at the municipal buildings in Scott, Waverly, North Abington and South Abington townships.

Comments on the documents may be submitted in writing to Jeremy Miller, DEP Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program, 2 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701.

The documents are also available online at, by clicking on “Regional Resources,” then “Northeast Region.”

Contact the writer:

Cancer cases raise worry in Pittston neighborhood

By Andrew Staub (Staff Writer)
Published: May 21, 2011

It seems everybody who lives near Chuck Meninchini is sick.

The radius of disease circles Mill Street and Carroll Street in Pittston, Meninchini’s hometown.

In a one-block radius on the streets five people have brain cancer, Meninchini said. And there’s more. Fifteen people in the area, Meninchini said, suffer from esophageal cancer.

“How rare is that?” he said.

All told, more than 80 families include somebody who is battling cancer, Meninchini said. He’s one of them, diagnosed with lymphoma in February.

Meninchini believes there’s a connection. Namely, the Butler Mine Tunnel. It was built before the 1930s to provide mine drainage for the maze of underground coal mines that run under the small city, but eventually became an illegal dumping ground for millions of gallons of oil waste collected by a nearby service station.

The Butler Mine Tunnel runs near Meninchini’s homes on 200 Carroll St., eventually discharging into the Susquehanna River. Meninchini believes whole-heartedly the sludge that has built up below caused his cancer and the diseases of those around him.

“You’re talking two streets. It doesn’t make sense to me,” Meninchini said. “If something wasn’t going on, prove me different. Show me where it’s coming from.”

Meninchini’s doctor, he said, told him exposure to benzene caused his cancer.

According to records from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the Pittston Mine Tunnel spewed an oily discharge into the Susquehanna River on July 30, 1979. Contaminants from the oil slick stretched from shoreline to shoreline, the records indicate, and drifted 60 miles downstream to Danville.

Responding to the emergency, the EPA installed booms on the river and collected 160,000 gallons of oil waste. The booms also collected 13,000 pounds of dichlorobenzene, a chemical used to make herbicides, insecticides, medicine and dyes, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.

The particular type of dichlorobenzene found in the river has not been tested to see if it can cause cancer, according to the agency. Another type of the chemical, though, “could play a role in the development of cancer in humans, but we do not definitely know this,” the agency concluded in its public health statement about dichlorobenzene.

In 1985, after heavy rains associated with Hurricane Gloria, the Butler Mine Tunnel spewed another 100,000 gallons of oily waste into the river and prompted another boom cleanup.

While the EPA has not connected the rash of cancer to the Butler Mine Tunnel, Meninchini wonders if chemicals eventually worked their way into the soil and into the vegetables people ate, he said. He wonders if he was exposed to any chemicals while working as a plumber in the city.

Answers – which Meninchini said have been tough to extract from government officials – might come next week.

State and federal officials have scheduled an open house for Tuesday to discuss the Butler Mine Tunnel. Representatives from the EPA, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, among others, will attend the event at the Martin L. Mattei Middle School on New Street in Pittston.

The open house runs from 4 to 6 p.m. with a presentation and follow-up session afterwards. Postcards detailing the event were mailed to about 1,500 homes in the vicinity of the tunnel, and Meninchini expects plenty of residents to show up. A woman from Connecticut, he said, even called him about it.

Until then, Meninchini continues to fight his cancer. The lymphoma, which originally riddled his stomach, pancreas, liver and spleen, has been beaten back in some places, but Meninchini said he was recently diagnosed with colon cancer and faces surgery.

Meninchini can’t work anymore, and he’s blown through his savings and cashed in his 401(k) to fund the thousands of dollars of medical expenses not covered by insurance.

Meninchini doesn’t want to get rich by publicizing the cancer outbreak – he just wants people’s health expenses financed, he said.

This week, friends and family have organized a “night-at-the-races” fundraiser to offset some of Meninchini’s health care costs – it runs from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the Italian Citizens Club in Pittston and includes food, drink and a wager.

An EPA official who oversees the Butler Mine Tunnel did not return a phone call seeking comment., 570-821-2052

Tamaqua properties illegally discharging into Wabash Creek
Reported on Friday, May 20, 2011

Fifty six properties in the borough of Tamaqua have been identified as having active or once active illegal sewer connections to the Wabash Creek.

Those that were once active may need further investigation to determine if they will need to be addressed. Council president Micah Gursky announced the findings of a recent study at this week’s borough council meeting, stating that property owners have already been notified by certified mail.

“As sad as it is that we have illegal discharge, it’s nice to see a list finally verifying who is illegally connected,” said Gursky. “There have always been rumors.”

The list is now available to the general public and can be viewed at the borough building.

“This is just the beginning,” said Gursky. “There are a lot of folks who have to connect and a lot of work to be done over the next several months to connect them.”

The majority of the properties are located along S. Lehigh, W. Broad, Rowe, S. Railroad and Nescopec streets. Gursky added that

The borough has until August to address the problems to avoid further issues with DEP, which has already cited the borough for the illegal discharge. Property owners have 60 days to connect to the sewage system.

Borough manager Kevin Steigerwalt asked borough residents for their continued cooperation in the matter.

“So far, the people have have contacted us with questions have been very cooperative. We appreciate that,” he said.

The borough does have a revolving loan program that could be available to property owners who need financial assistance to have the work completed. More information on that program is available from the borough.

Aircraft to help re-vegetate portion of Palmerton Zinc Superfund Site

(PHILADELPHIA – March 11, 2011) – The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency in cooperation with the National Park Service, will oversee use of an aircraft to plant grass and other vegetation on a 500-acre section of the Palmerton Zinc Superfund site in Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail at the top of Blue Mountain.

This project is part of an ongoing action to repair environmental damage that was caused by emissions from zinc smelting operations in the Borough of Palmerton.  Due to the steep and remote location, a modified crop dusting aircraft will be used to distribute a specific mixture of seed, lime and fertilizer on the property owned by the National Park Service and Pennsylvania State Game Land.  Weather-permitting, work is scheduled to begin the week of March 14 and should take five to six weeks to complete.

“The re-vegetation of Blue Mountain marks another step forward in a lengthy clean-up process and helps restore a beautiful portion of Appalachian Trail with native grasses, plants and shrubs so that it blends in naturally with the Pennsylvania countryside,” said EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin.

“This step has been a long time coming and we are delighted to have this remediation work getting underway,” said Pamela Underhill, Park Manager for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

During the planting, the public will see aircraft originating from the nearby Slatington, Pa. airport flying low over the top of Blue Mountain.  This aerial reseeding technique was previously used to restore other sections of the mountain west and east of the Lehigh River.  The mixture of seed used during this restoration is designed to foster the growth of warm season grasses, shrubs and trees native to the area.

The restoration work is being paid for by CBS Inc., formerly Viacom International, the party potentially responsible for the contamination.  More information on the Palmerton site can be found on EPA’s website at: .

Contacts: Roy Seneca (EPA) 215-814-5567
David Reus  (National Park Service) 304-535-4001

Residents of Dimock Township receive $4.1 million

Dimock, Pennsylvania Residents to Share $4.1 Million, Receive Gas Mitigation Systems Under DEP-Negotiated Settlement with Cabot Oil and Gas

Additional $500,000 to Reimburse DEP for Investigative Costs; DEP to Drop Montrose Water Line Plan Given Uncertain Prospects

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 15, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —  Residents of Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, who have had their drinking water supplies contaminated by natural gas will each receive a share of $4.1 million that Cabot Oil and Gas Co. will pay under a settlement negotiated by the Department of Environmental Protection and the company.

The settlement, which will enable the affected families to address their individual circumstances as they see fit, also binds Cabot to offer and pay to install whole-house gas mitigation devices in each of the 19 affected homes.

Cabot also will pay DEP $500,000 to offset the state’s expense of investigating the stray gas migration cases that have plagued Dimock residents for nearly two years.

“The 19 families in Dimock who have been living under very difficult conditions for far too long will receive a financial settlement that will allow them to address their own circumstances in their own way,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger, who explained that the amount paid to each family will equal two-times the value of their home, with a minimum payment of $50,000.

“In addition to the significant monetary component of this settlement, there is a requirement that Cabot continue to work with us to ensure that none of their wells allow gas to migrate,” Hanger noted.

DEP began investigating reports of stray gas in Dimock water wells in January 2009. A consent order and agreement signed in November 2009 required Cabot to install whole-house treatment systems in 14 homes, but residents found that action to be unsatisfactory.

The agreement was modified in April 2010 and DEP ordered Cabot to cap three wells believed to be the source of the migrating gas. DEP also suspended its review of Cabot’s pending permit applications for new drilling activities statewide and prohibited the company from drilling any new wells in a nine-square-mile area around Dimock.

In September, DEP announced that Pennsylvania American Water Co. would construct a 5.5-mile water main from its Lake Montrose water treatment plant to supply the affected Dimock residents with a reliable source of quality drinking water. In November, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, or PENNVEST, approved an $11.8 million grant and loan package for the project, with the commonwealth intending to recover the cost of the project from Cabot.

Given the opposition to the planned water line and the uncertain future the project faces, Hanger said the department would abandon its pursuit of the project.

“Our primary goal at the department has always been to ensure that the wells Cabot drilled in Dimock were safe and that they were not contaminating local private water supplies,” said Hanger. “We’ve made great progress in doing that. Since we initiated our enforcement actions, gas levels in a majority of the contaminated water wells have gone down significantly. This agreement lays the foundation for families to finally put an end to this ordeal.”

Media contact: Michael Smith, 717-787-1323

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection