In December 2009, Dimock Township (PA) resident Scott Ely, an employee of Cabot Oil & Gas drilling subsidiary GasSearch Drilling Services, made claims of hidden or ignored spills, leaking pits and shoddy practices to both state environmental regulators and Cabot officials. Ely identified 11 sites where he said such problems had occurred. Cabot contracted with URS Corp. to investigate the claims and either prove or disprove them. A final URS report has just been issued which says it found nothing in the streams, ponds and soil it sampled at levels that would pose a risk to human health.
The report (a copy is embedded below) says URS did find some substances which may indicate past spills from natural gas drilling operations, but that the substances they found do not have state-mandated limits for soil and water.
Both Cabot and Mr. Ely have differing interpretations of the findings:
In a statement, Cabot spokesman George Stark said the study "scientifically confirms that Mr. Ely was either mistaken or incorrect in every case" and that "no environmental harm or threat existed or exists for any incident alleged by Mr. Ely."
The company spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars over a two-year period to have each allegation investigated for environmental impact" and found that Mr. Ely’s allegations "lacked substance," he said.
Lawyers with the New York firm Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik who represent Mr. Ely in a lawsuit against Cabot declined to comment on the report because of pending litigation but said the chemicals found at the well sites clearly support Mr. Ely’s story. They also noted that the study failed to investigate groundwater near the well sites.
Mr. Ely said the report "proves that I wasn’t lying about what was happening on the job sites."*
*The Scranton Times Tribune (Dec 15, 2011) – Cabot report finds chemicals but no health threats in whistleblower investigation