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Marcellus Shale Gas Driller Named in Water Contamination Lawsuit

Oct 29, 2010 | Parker Waichman LLP

A woman from Sugar Run, Pennsylvania has filed suit against Chesapeake Appalachia, LLP, alleging its drilling of nearby natural gas wells has contaminated her water supply. Among other things, the Bradford County woman is seeking damages due to health problems she said are the result of that contamination.

Chesapeake Appalachia is one of many firms engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale. The Marcellus shale, a massive rock formation that stretches from New York through Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, is often described as the nation’s largest source of natural gas.  

Plaintiff Judy Armstrong is being represented by the national law firm of Parker Waichman LLP; the Law Offices of Michael Gleeson, based in Archbald, Pennsylvania; Neblett, Beard and Arsenault of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Becnel Law Firm of Reserve, Louisiana. In addition to Chesapeake Appalachia, the lawsuit names Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Nomac Drilling LLC as defendants.

According to Armstrong’s lawsuit, Chesapeake Appalachia began drilling several wells near her home in 2009. The complaint alleges that because of the drilling activities, methane, ethane, barium and other harmful substances entered into and contaminated her water supply. The contamination has caused her to suffer a variety of problems, including contact dermatitis, gastro-intestinal discomfort, barium poisoning, pain, numbness to her face and hands, deformities of the bones of her hands, and headache, among other injuries. She continues to live in fear of future physical illness, the complaint alleges.

At a news conference held yesterday to discuss her lawsuit, Armstrong and her fiancé, who owns the property where she lives, said Chesapeake and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) found methane when they tested their water in September.

Armstrong’s lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction barring the defendants from engaging in the acts cited by the complaint, as well as abatement of the nuisances, unlawful conduct, violations and damages created by those acts. It also seeks, among other things, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and the cost of future health monitoring.

According to an Associated Press report, the state DEP said last month that at least six residential wells in Wilmot Township – about 8 miles from Sugar Run – were tainted with methane believed to be caused by Chesapeake’s drilling operations. The agency has also directed Chesapeake to evaluate all 171 wells it has in Pennsylvania because of the Bradford County issues

Fracking has also been blamed for contaminating 20 water wells in the town of Dimock, which is located in Susquehanna County, just adjacent to Bradford County.

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