Monday, January 9, 2012

DEP Cites Cabot For New Gas Migration Case: Comparing Dimock & Lenox Township

On September 19th, 2011, DEP issued a notice of violation to Cabot Oil & Gas Corp for contaminating a private water well in Lenox Township in Susquehanna County.  Unlike in Dimock, the now infamous site of the first Cabot gas migration case, where no pre-gas drilling testing of the 18 private water wells most at issue was done, Cabot did test the water well in Lenox Township for methane prior to gas drilling.

The September 19th, 2011 DEP notice of violation states the pre-gas drilling water test found methane levels at 0.290 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) or very low.

Methane levels in two samples taken after gas drilling were at 49.200 mg/L on August 16th and 57.600 mg/L or dangerously high. 

These Lenox Township pre-drilling and then post-drilling test results are going to make it hard to claim or find that methane was naturally occurring or pre-existing, as Cabot did in the case of 18 water wells in Dimock that DEP found had been contaminated from 2009 to at least January 2012 by methane migration due to poor drilling.

The NOV states that inspections of three nearby gas wells found "natural gas between the various casing strings of the three wells."

As usual, Laura Legere of the Scranton Times is on the story. See The article includes a link to the DEP notice of violation.  Legere also writes that a DEP video, taken inside one of the suspected gas wells, showed improper construction of a casing string.

Legere's article speaks of 3 water wells being contaminated by methane.  My read of the NOV to which the story links mentions only one water well.  It is possible that separate NOVs were issued for two more water wells.

Why is this news coming to light 4 months after the NOV was issued? DEP states that the information was mistakenly not posted on the website. 

There is likely much more to follow on this story.


  1. Mr Hanger,

    Thank you for adressing, here, the issue of "naturally ocuring" methane.

    Stanley R Scobie, Binghamton, NY

  2. Do we have any idea if these wells were drilled using the same flawed techniques as Dimock, or if these were new wells constructed in adherence with DEP's updated well construction standards?

  3. Not clear what design and materials were used. But you must have both excellent design and materials plus good execution. There is skill associated with drilling. Attention to details matter. Putting safety first is indispensable .

  4. I would think that DEP would hold Cabot to the highest standard after what happened in Dimock. I would imagine DEP would be very careful to maintain documents, records...seems this company gets a lot of second chances. "Oversight"??? Glad to see predrills exist. We were told by the gas company that we did not need a predrill.....very slick...Let's hope three years from now these folks are not still on water buffaloes with water provided by concerned citizens-not the state or the gas company.

  5. Yoko,

    You DON'T need a pre-drill test. According to PA law, ANY fouled water is the presumed liability of the gas company UNLESS the gas company has pre-drill tests to prove that it was pre-existing. Ask Cabot about this.

  6. Mike:

    I can say without doubt that the statutory presumption that gas drilling caused pollution to water wells, if drilling takes place within 1,000 feet and no pre-drill test was done, was part of the Dimock case. At one time, Cabot asserted that this statutory presumption in PA law was unconstitutional. I can also say there was extensive testing of the gas done to determine whether the gas in the various Dimock wells was thermogenic or biogenic. There was also extensive inspections of gas wells, including video taken, gas pressure readings and more. DEP did not make its Dimock findings lightly.

  7. Mike: Pa law is that gas drilling within 1,000 feet of a water well done without pre-drilling water testing is presumed to cause pollution. It is a rebuttable presumption. Cabot asserted that this statutory provision of PA law was unconstitutional. DEP had substantial evidence for finding that gas had migrated to some water wells in Dimock, including comprehensive testing of the gas itself, inspections of the gas wells, gas pressure readings and more.

    1. there are more Dimock's, Lenox...just spoke with a farm...why did DEP let Cabot off the hook? It put everyone at risk.

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