By David DeKok
HARRISBURG, Pa. (Reuters) - Cabot Oil & Gas Co. [COG.N] has settled a lawsuit filed by two families in Dimock, Pennsylvania, who alleged their homes' drinking water became contaminated with methane not long after the company began drilling for natural gas in 2007.
The Ely and Hulbert families initially won $4.2 million in damages in a federal jury trial in Scranton last year, but Magistrate Judge Martin Carlson threw out the verdict as unjustified and ordered the parties to begin settlement talks.
The terms of the settlement have not been made public. Leslie Lewis, the New York lawyer who represented the families, declined on Tuesday to comment on the terms.
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"After nine long years, the plaintiffs are happy and relieved to put the matter behind them," Lewis told Reuters.
Neither Cabot Oil & Gas spokesman George Stark nor the company’s lead lawyer, Stephen Dillard, could be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Carlson approved the settlement on Sept. 21, court records show.
Dimock, Pennsylvania was at the heart of the Marcellus Shale gas fracking boom that began in 2007. Residents complained that Cabot’s drilling caused methane gas to migrate to their wells, so much that they could light their tap water on fire.
Flaming tap water in Dimock was a highlight of the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary, “Gasland,” written and directed by Josh Fox. Residents also complained that their water had turned brown and corrosive.
Cabot contended that there had always been underground methane in Dimock and that there was no proof its drilling had caused the contamination.
"The issues they have are cosmetic and aesthetic," Dillard told Reuters last year. "Those can be treated, but it’s not toxic."
Fifteen families in Dimock filed a lawsuit over water contamination in 2009. All but the Elys and Hulberts settled with Cabot in 2012.
Lewis said there has been no change in the poor quality of the family’s well water since the trial in 2016.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Diane Craft)