More residents of a small rural village in Susquehanna County believe that their well water was contaminated due to natural gas drilling than what has been thus far publicly reported, The Wayne Independent has learned.


More residents of a small rural village in Susquehanna County believe that their well water was contaminated due to natural gas drilling than what has been thus far publicly reported, The Wayne Independent has learned.
Following an intensive investigation into what caused one private water well to literally explode on New Year’s Day, the state environmental regulator conclusively identified 13 homes in Dimock Township earlier this month that clearly have methane - a combustible gas - in their drinking water.
These homes, mostly centered around one township road, were within 1,300 feet of eight-failed natural gas wells that caused methane to spew into the local aquifer, according to a report issued by state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on November 4.
 Although the Cabot Oil & Gas outright denies that its operations caused this to occur, there are now others in the community alleging that their well water has also taken a turn for the worst. (Cabot has leased properties in Wayne County, giving the company the right to drill for natural gas here).
A spokesperson for the environmental regulator confirmed that a list of additional names has been received, and that it is under review.
“We’ll be looking into that,” said DEP spokesperson Freda Tarbell, who was not able to provide the exact number of those who complained when asked by The Wayne Independent on Tuesday.
She added that if it is warranted, the department will perform follow-up water sampling at those homes to determine if indeed their well water may now be infused with methane, or any other contaminates associated with drilling.
“It’s very possible that that will be the road we will follow,” she said.
As part of an agreement with DEP to provide an alternate supply of water to the confirmed 13 residences that were negatively impacted, Cabot Oil & Gas had to submit a list of names of other families that complained to the company about potentially polluted well water. That list had to be submitted on November 14, and the company compiled.
Pat Farnelli is one of them, she told The Wayne Independent on Monday.
She believes that although she has not been “officially” classified as having polluted well water, she is convinced that that is indeed the case as her and her children have become sick after drinking a glass of it.
There are “at least five more families that have bad water ... (and) there’s a lot more people that are affected that don’t know about it,” said the Dimock Township resident who has personally seen the rust-colored, sometimes flammable water while visiting neighbors.
“We can’t afford the $2,000 to get our water tested,” she added.
DEP has pinpointed a possible nine-square mile impacted area where pollution may seep due to the failed natural gas wells. Most of the official contamination cases thus far confirmed are confined to one area of the township, in the vicinity of Carter Road.
“Nobody in their right mind would even try to drink that,” said Farnelli, a freelance reporter by trade. “I do know when my kids drink it, they get wicked stomach cramps and it goes right through them.”
Farnelli and five other families have joined some of those officially identified as having bad water in a lawsuit against Cabot Oil & Gas. The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages, centered on the impact of polluted well water on their health and property values.
In all, 15 families - six of which have not been officially confirmed by DEP as having methane-infused well water - are suing the company in federal court on that charge. The families had signed leases with Cabot Oil & Gas Company in 2006.
“It’s clearly affected more than 15 families,” said Leslie Lewis, an environmental attorney whose firm Jacob Fuchsberg of New York City is representing the group. “It’s hardly the end of the (methane) plume. There are many other families.”
The lawsuit was filed last Friday in Scranton.
The lawsuit further alleges that the well water contains substances which caused litigants “to become sick and ill, manifesting neurological, gastrointestinal” health problems. Blood tests also revealed exposure to heavy metals, according to the complaint obtained by The Wayne Independent.
A Cabot spokesperson said “nothing has been proven” as to whether the company was responsible for the methane plume in the township’s drinking water, or any other pollutants for that matter.
“The investigation is still continuing,” said Ken Komoroski. “There’s no firm evidence. ... Those conclusions haven’t been fully reached. ... We haven’t been able to confirm or deny.” 
He added that there is “no merit” to the lawsuit.
“The only contaminate that Cabot has found is the methane,” he said.
Tarbell, of DEP, said that well water samples taken throughout the year have not shown the presence of any other pollutants besides methane.