The Next Drilling Disaster?

From The Nation:

A tour of Dimock, Pennsylvania, with Victoria Switzer is a bumpy ride over torn-up roads, around parking lots filled with heavy machinery and storage tanks, and past well pads that not long ago were forests. The winter here was quiet, but with the thawing ground came the return of the rigs, the trucks, the constant noise and lights of a twenty-four-hour-a-day gas drilling operation. "It's a modern-day Deadwood out here," Switzer says, likening the activity to the gold rush. "No rules, no regs, just rigs."

The "occupation," as she calls it, hasn't just transformed Dimock into an industrial hub; it has also damaged the local water supply and put residents' health at risk. After a stray drill bit banged four wells in 2008, Switzer says, weird things started happening to people's water: some flushed black, some orange, some turned bubbly. One well exploded, the result of methane migration, and residents say elevated metal and toluene levels have ruined twelve others. Then, in September 2009, about 8,000 gallons of hazardous drilling fluids spilled into nearby fields and creeks. The contamination and related health problems have prompted fifteen families to file suit against Cabot Oil and Gas, the primary leaseholder in the area, alleging fraud and contract violation and seeking to stop the damage from spreading.

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