By Phelim McAleer
The Ely family in Dimock, Pennsylvania is suing an oil and gas company alleging they contaminated their water well through fracking. Dimock has become a focal point for anti-fracking activists with many calling it “Ground zero” for pollution. Dimock and the Ely's have been featured in national and international news reports and documentaries. Celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo, Yoko Ono, and Susan Sarandon have visited the tiny community to sympathize.
But yesterday in the first day of the trial, facts started to emerge that show the truth is much different from the previously reported stories. Questioned under oath, Scott Ely's claims look a lot less certain and he looks a lot less credible. Below are five facts that emerged during the first day that show Scott Ely may have been lying about his water being contaminated by fracking.
1. What the Frack?
It's bad when your own lawyer admits that there is no scientific evidence to backup a central allegation of your case, but that’s what happened on the first day of the trial. Scott Ely's lawyer stated clearly:
“This is not a case....about toxic materials ending up in the water. We do not have proof of that. We don't have proof of that. This is not about fracking fluid appearing in the water. Hydraulic fracturing materials, we don't have proof of that.”
2. Dirty All the Time
Instead Scott Ely is claiming that Cabot Oil and Gas has made his beautiful, pure, pristine Pennsylvania water undrinkable. He said they polluted it with methane and made it dirty, brown, smelly, and completely unusable when they started drilling in 2008. Except under cross examination Mr Ely had to admit that prior to getting his new well drilled he got his water from a spring at the house that was so dirty none of his family would drink it. In fact he was forced to admit that it was so dirty that his wife would only use bottled water for cooking. It was so bad he used bottled water up until 2003.
3. No Case(ing)
But then Scott Ely got a water well drilled in 2003. The idea that this well supplied pristine water until it was polluted by the evil oil and gas company very quickly withered away under a few pointed questions. It turns out that Ely's water well is 300 ft deep but is only lined for 40ft. After that it is open to the earth, allowing clay and animals and anything else that comes out of the ground to fall into the water. It seems he has no case and no casing on his well.
4. Million Dollar Listing - PA
Mr. Ely does not behave as if his water has been polluted and the health of his wife and children put in peril. He told the jury that it has been a “nightmare” having to travel 17 miles to a nearby town in a water tanker to bring drinkable and usable water to his house. They were always short of water, he complained. The family even had to share bathwater, he said. Most of us faced with such hardship--unusable, undrinkable water that’s damaging our children’s health and happiness--might give up. But not Scott Ely. Instead he and his wife decided to build a $1m, 7000 sq ft, twenty-two bedroom house on the lot despite claiming it had unusable, dirty, dangerous water. In short, their behavior was not the behavior of people who believed their water was polluted.
5. Dimock Time Machine
Scott Ely told three different people that they started to notice the water smelling and tasting bad in August 2008--and these were not just casual conversation. Ely confirmed this start date in a hand written declaration to his lawyer, and he repeated the claim to a hydro-geologist investigating the water. He even told a doctor that the problems with his water started in July 2008. The problem for his case is that Cabot did not start drilling the gas well he says polluted his water until late Sept/early October 2008. So unless there was a Dimock time warp, Scott Ely's water problems started before the fracking for gas.
And that’s just day one of the trial. Scott Ely's cross examination continues today.