|In this Sept. 20, 2012 file photo, Ray Kemble, of Dimock, Pa., holds a jug of his well water on his head while marching with demonstrators against hydraulic fracturing outside a Marcellus Shale industry conference in Philadelphia. Federal government scientists are collecting water and air samples in the first week of August 2017 from about 25 homes in Dimock, Pa., a tiny, rural crossroads about 150 miles north of Philadelphia that became a flashpoint in the national debate over fracking to investigate ongoing complaints about the quality of the drinking water. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)|
The federal government has returned to a Pennsylvania village that became a flashpoint in the national debate over fracking to investigate ongoing complaints about the quality of the drinking water.
Government scientists are collecting water and air samples this week from about 25 homes in Dimock, a tiny crossroads about 150 miles north of Philadelphia.
"Residents have continued to raise concerns about natural gas activities impacting their private water well quality," the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said Thursday in a statement to The Associated Press.
Dimock was the scene of the most highly publicized case of methane contamination to emerge from the early days of Pennsylvania's natural-gas drilling boom. State regulators blamed faulty gas wells drilled by Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. for leaking combustible methane into Dimock's groundwater.
Cabot, one of the largest natural gas producers in the state, has consistently denied responsibility, saying methane was an issue in the groundwater long before it began drilling.
The ATSDR, a federal public health agency, said Thursday that it is "conducting an exposure investigation to determine if there are drinking water quality issues that may continue to pose a health threat."
The water will be tested for bacteria, gases and chemicals. The agency is also testing indoor air for radon. Sampling results are expected in the fall, which will be shared with residents. A report will be released to the public next year.
Dimock became a battleground in environmental activists' fight against fracking, the technique that allows drilling companies to extract huge volumes of oil and natural gas from rock formations deep underground. The village was featured in the Emmy-winning 2010 documentary "Gasland," which showed residents lighting their tap water on fire. Drilling supporters have long accused Dimock residents of seeking money and attention.
Dozens of plaintiffs who say their water was ruined settled their lawsuit against Cabot in 2012.
In April, a federal judge threw out a $4.24 million jury verdict against the Houston-based driller and ordered a new trial in a lawsuit alleging that Cabot contaminated the well water of two families who were not part of the 2012 settlement.
A Cabot spokesman did not immediately respond to an email from the AP on Thursday.
It's the first time that ATSDR has tested private well water in Dimock. The Environmental Protection Agency conducted testing in 2012.