The trouble started in 2008, when the wells used by several Dimock families were contaminated with methane. In 2009, fracking firm Cabot Oil & Gas was fined by state regulators for contaminating the wells with methane while fracking underground. Cabot routinely denies causing water contamination. There is a moratorium on fracking in the area.
Cabot was under state order to deliver fresh water in giant containers to families in Dimock with contaminated wells until November 2011, when state officials determined affected residents had been given enough time to sign an agreement with Cabot and allow the company to install water treatment systems. Several residents did not trust the treatment systems, however, and the plaintiffs against Cabot flat-out refused to sign an agreement with the drilling company.
The residents claimed their water was still unusable as the water deliveries came to and end, prompting Hollywood actor and Water Defense founder Mark Ruffalo and "Gasland" Director Josh Fox to deliver fresh water to the families in a high-profile media blitz last December.
Cabot CEO Dan Dinges even wrote a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson charging that the study to determine if the water in Dimock was safe to drink undercut the Obama administration's commitment to expanding natural gas production.
Truthout's own analysis of the EPA's entire data set shows that some of the wells contain potentially dangerous pollutants at levels that in some cases exceed federal safety standards. So, how can the EPA say the well water in Dimock is safe?
Ronald Bishop, a fracking critic and biochemistry professor in the New York State University system, in a statement posted on the Water Defense web site, said one-third of the wells were contaminated with methane within ranges that could be ignited or detonated, bringing to mind the now infamous images of fracking victims lighting their tap water on fire.
Bishop said the levels of arsenic, barium, 2-methoxyethanol, lithium and sodium were also detected in some wells at levels of concern under state and federal guidelines.
"Overall, these observations suggest that many of these homeowners' water wells are significantly contaminated with a variety of pollutants in concentrations which are of concern to public health professionals," Bishop said.
Bishop slammed the EPA for apparently ignoring a November 2011 analysis of water testing data gathered from Dimock wells prepared for the agency by the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The report raised concerns about the reliability of the water filters and methane removal systems used by residents in Dimock and concluded that there could be a "possible chronic public health threat."