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Cabot Cited for Faults in Fracked Well After Gas Fouls Water

Growing Number of Lawsuits Could Slow Fracking-Driven Boom
Dimock, Pennsylvania, residents sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. alleging the company's drilling left methane and toxic chemicals in their wells. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Cabot Oil & Gas Co., the best-performer last year in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, was cited by Pennsylvania officials in September for “improper” well construction after natural gas polluted drinking water.

Inspectors found defects in the liner intended to prevent oil or gas from leaking into groundwater at a Susquehanna County well, according to a Sept. 19 notice of violation from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. The violation was reported earlier today by the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Methane levels in a private water well 1,400 feet (427 meters) away from Cabot’s operations rose from 0.29 milligrams a liter to 57.6 milligrams a liter between November 2010 and August 2011, according to the notice.

Cabot, based in Houston, was cited for three violations and given 30 days to respond with its plan to correct flaws at the well.

The company immediately vented the household wells to eliminate risk of fire or explosion and “tightened down” its wells, George Stark, a Cabot spokesman, said in an interview today. Methane levels in the household wells fell over a period of two weeks, Stark said.

“All is safe at the residences there,” he said. The company isn’t providing drinking water to the well owner and is still “exchanging data” with the department about the incident, he said.

Cabot agreed in December 2010 to put $4.1 million into escrow for families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, who said their drinking water was polluted by the company’s oil wells, settling a claim by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, according to a company filings.

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