Reuters News Service Runs Hit Piece on Drilling in Dimock, PA and Cabot Oil & Gas

Marcellus Drilling News (MDN) has been following the story of Cabot Oil & Gas and the contamination of a few water wells with natural gas in the Dimock, PA area. The mainstream media, when it looks for stories about gas drilling and the environment, latches on to this particular story because of it’s potential to play at people’s fears about drilling. Reuters is the latest to do so. They just released an article titled, “U.S. energy future hits snag in rural Pennsylvania.” The subhead for one section of the story says: “Water tastes bad, animals lose fur.”

It’s a very slanted story. However, I mention it here because there are several interviews of local residents affected by contamination of their well water by natural gas. We do not look away from potential problems cause by drilling. Here are a few excerpts from the story:

When her children started missing school because of persistent diarrhea and vomiting, Pat Farnelli began to wonder if she and her family were suffering from more than just a classroom bug.

After trying several remedies, she stopped using the water drawn from her well in this rural corner of northeastern Pennsylvania, the forefront of a drilling boom in what may be the biggest U.S. reserve of natural gas.

“I was getting excruciating stomach cramps after drinking the water,” Farnelli said in an interview at her farmhouse, cluttered as a home with eight children would be, while her husband, a night cook at a truck stop, slept on the couch.

“It felt like an appendicitis attack.”

The family, which is poor enough to qualify for government food stamps, began buying bottled water for drinking and cooking. Their illnesses finally ended, and Farnelli found something to blame: natural gas drilling in the township of 1,400 people.

And this:

Ron and Jean Carter suspected there was a leak when the water supply to their trailer home started to taste and smell bad after Cabot started drilling 200 yards (meters) away.

Not wanting to risk the health of a new grandchild living with them, the 70-year-old retirees scraped together $6,500 for a water purification system.

“It was kind of funny that the water was good in July but after they drilled, it wasn’t,” said Ron Carter.

And if people in trouble is not enough to convince you how bad drilling is, bring on the animal stories:

Tim and Debbie Maye, a truck driver and post office worker who have three teenage children, have been cooking and drinking only bottled water since their well water turned brown in November after Cabot started drilling.

But she can’t afford bottled water for her animals. Her cats have been losing fur and projectile vomiting because they lick drips from the spigot that carries water from their well. Her three horses — one of which is losing its hair — drink as much as 50 gallons a day.

“I tell my husband, ‘I’m going out to poison the horses,'” she said.

I feel for these people and would not want to be in their shoes, that’s for sure. As stated before on this site, Cabot and the PA Department of Environmental Protection still have not figured out how Cabot may have caused the contamination. But let’s be clear: The contamination is natural gas, it is not contamination with chemicals that Cabot uses to fracture the hole. That’s why stories like this one from Reuters are nothing short of journalistic malpractice. Immediately following the story of hair falling off the horses, we get this paragraph:

Chemical Brew

Environmental groups fear energy companies are contaminating water supplies by using a toxic mix of chemicals that are forced deep into the rock along with water and sand to release the natural gas. The process is called hydrofracturing, or “fracking” in industry jargon.

This is not only misleading, but a lie to combine one issue (natural gas contamination of water) with another (chemical contamination of water). The people whose stories are featured are not suffering from chemical poisoning, their water supply has been contaminated with naturally occurring natural gas, likely (but not yet proven) to have crept in due to Cabot’s drilling activities in the area.

Such is the misleading mainstream media. Cast a careful and critical eye on the stories you read and listen to!

Read the full article: U.S. energy future hits snag in rural Pennsylvania

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  • George

    There are several ways that methane can enter the water supply via natural gas drilling including improper or inadequate cementing or casing; fracturing; or blowout.

    If the problem is caused by improper or inadequate cementing or casing then the contamination of the water will probably be limited to methane and other underground volatiles (including benzene).

    If the problem is caused by fracturing then the contamination of the water can include not only methane and other underground volatiles but also the chemicals used to drill and fracture the well.

    If the problem is caused by a blowout then the contamination of the water will be like that from improper or inadequate cementing or casing. If the blowout occurred during drilling or fracturing then the contamination can include not only methane and other underground volatiles but also the chemicals used to drill or fracture the well.

    Examples of these types of contamination include the English #1 well in Ohio (inadequate cementing) and the Crosby 25-3 well in Wyoming (blowout during drilling).

    Water testing, if there is methane, should include BTEX as a minimum. Elevated chlorides/TDS is another indicator of contamination but BTEX tests for chemicals that pose a serious health hazard.

  • Jim

    Thanks for your enlightening comments George. As you may detect, I’m rather new to the subject, but learning. I’m assuming from the coverage I read on this topic that testing has shown the water is only contaminated with methane and perhaps other naturally occurring chemicals. If benzene is present (naturally occurring), that’s certainly not a good thing due to its extreme toxicity. But my read is that both Cabot and the DEP have and are testing for chemicals that would be present due to fracturing, and have not found any.

    I do not let Cabot off the hook. It’s just too coincidental that the water wells became contaminated with gas only after the drilling began. I think it likely there’s a cause and effect (although that is yet to be proven beyond doubt). Any way you look at it, the people whose wells are contaminated are the ones who suffer. It does seem to me Cabot is making a real effort to own up to the situation and make it right.

    I sincerely do appreciate you taking the time to tutor us along on what would be found under differing scenarios. It’s very helpful!

    – Jim

  • Glenn Williams

    Cabot, hired landmen in this area who have lied repeatedly to landowners. Why should anyone believe in anything they say now???

  • Jack

    Jim, you said: “It does seem to me Cabot is making a real effort to own up to the situation and make it right.”

    On this, I’m sorry to say you would be very, very much mistaken. I’m in touch with many affected people in Dimock on a daily basis. Whatever you’ve heard, wherever you got it from, it couldn’t be more wrong.

  • Jack

    I should also mention that your assessment of the media coverage, on the whole, is incorrect. The article you cite is one of relatively few to even attempt to tell the story of affected areas and families.

    The Evening Sun of Norwich, NY doesn’t bother trying. They just send a reporter over to Nornew’s offices and print whatever the execs tell them – always nothing more than PR and propaganda.

    In between are many newspapers who put forth varying levels of effort, but more often than not, articles have been cheerleaders, citing the purported benefits and giving short shrift to the many, many questions that have needed to be asked at any stage.

    Those of us who’ve for a year now been investigating this process of horizontal drilling / high volume hydraulic fracturing and the track record of the companies that use it are very pleased to see wider media attention given to the great deal of negative information we’ve discovered – negative information that unfortunately represents the reality.

  • Jim

    Thanks for leaving your comments Jack. All opinions, including and especially dissenting opinions, gladly accepted on this blog. I have not personally spoken with the people in Dimock (something I would like to do). However, my analysis was that the Reuters story was factually misleading at best, wrong at worse. There is no proof (unless you know of some?) that anything other than gas is contaminating the wells in Dimock.

    Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment again.

  • Jim

    Thanks for your comment Glenn. Can you back it up? Can you leave a comment (or send me information) about cases where owners were lied to by Cabot landmen? Landowners need to know of such cases. Thanks for reading the blog.

  • not a liar in dimock

    ask the neighbors here…they know everything! Animals sick hogwash! hope they can back it all up. Check out the story they posin them themselfs.
    They need money.

  • Gordy

    There where other contaminates found other than methane including aluminum and iron. Not good….

  • Gordy
  • arprice

    To All,
    My father grew up in Lennox township and is almost 80 years old. He played in the creeks as a boy and literally lite them on fire. We need to make it safe and right in case of accidents, but we have to drill for natural gas. It is plentiful, close to 60% of us population and it is ours! We send 700 billion per day to OPEC. ap

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