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Fracking process contaminates water supply in US town

 

For the Ely family, the problem runs deep underneath the soil, in their roots.

SOUNDBITE Scott Ely, Dimock resident, speaking English: “I was born and raised here. I bought this off my father many years ago. We’ve put so much into it.”

Acres of land, a swimming pool, a pond and a new generation with roots here too.

SOUNDBITE Scott Ely, Dimock resident, speaking English: “So it’s kind of hard for me to just pack up and move because everything about me is here.”

But times have changed since Scott Ely grew up here. For the last year and four months, he and his family have been unable to drink their water ever since he agreed to allow Cabot Oil and Gas to drill for natural gas on his property.

They’re one of more than a dozen families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, who have water that looks like this because it’s full of methane gas.

PTC: “Instead, families like the Ely’s live out of tanks like this one. Two hundred fifty gallons of water delivered once a day for a family of five.”

SOUNDBITE Scott Ely, Dimock resident, speaking English: “That’s with showers and flushing the toilet and dishes and laundry. Living out of a tank is not what we expect out of life.”

Ely says he and his wife signed on only after they were assured it would be a quick safe process.

Clearly that didn’t happen. It got so bad that Ely and his cousin, who lives down the street, decided to find out what would happen if they lit their water on fire.

Jared Ely, Dimock resident, speaking English: “A lot of flames were coming up when Mike was here.” - “How big were the flames?” - “Kind of like that high I think.”

SOUNDBITE Scott Ely, Dimock resident, speaking English: “So before Cabot came into town there was never any problem with the water? Never any problem with the water.”

But for Jim Grimsley and his wife Ann, Dimock is where they came to retire. The drilling just started on their property but they’re hopeful.

SOUNDBITE Ann Van Lenten, speaking English: “We did sign on and we’re not sorry that we did.”

SOUNDBITE Jim Grimsley, Dimock resident, speaking English: “Susquehana county is a poor county so a lot of people did get work and they got jobs and they’re making money so to me that’s a plus.”

But some who got jobs complained about the company and were punished or put on leave. Most employees are from Texas and stay in rented houses or hotels.

The Pennsylvania department of environmental protection has been out several times but just now decided to take action.

SOUNDBITE John Hanger, secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, speaking English: “Cabot has done a lousy job drilling in the Dmiock region.”

The D.E.P. has now issued orders for Cabot to plug three wells they’ve already drilled - which could cost millions of dollars. They also have 30 days to install permanent water supplies for families, including the Ely’s who get water delivered.

SOUNDBITE John Hanger, secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, speaking English: “If Cabot doesn’t agree to these terms and get it done, we’ll be in court and seeking a court order to enforce what I’ve just laid out.”

For Grimsley, what’s happened is simply a rough patch.

SOUNDBITE Jim Grimsley, Dimock resident, speaking English: “It’s just like anything. When they were digging subways in New York City a hundred years ago, everybody probably hated them. Today they move a couple million people a day. Without them New York City wouldn’t be there.”

But for Ely, it is a looming question of whether to uproot his family from the only place he has ever known…

SOUNDBITE Scott Ely, Dimock resident, speaking English: “ I’ve got a lot of memories here.”

…Or keep them there with the hope that at some point things will change.

In Dimock, Pennsylvania, Kristine Frazao, RT.

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