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Texas Family Awarded $2.9 Million In Fracking Damages Claims

May 15, 2014

A Dallas County, Texas jury just awarded a family $2.9 million in personal injury and property damages over a lawsuit brought against Aruba Petroleum, Inc.

The verdict involves past and future pain and suffering and includes $400,000 for mental anguish, and $275,000 in property damages over the family home’s market value loss, according to Mondaq.

The jury award was focused on a husband, wife, and their minor daughter, and alleged illnesses blamed on their exposure to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and other compounds that Aruba utilized during its hydraulic fracturing—fracking—operations on properties adjoining the family’s ranch. The home is located on top of the Barnett Shale-formation in North Texas, Mondaq wrote. The family alleged that Aruba had 22 wells operating in a two-mile radius of their land, which exposed them to dangerous gases, chemicals, and industrial waste, which sickened them and impacted their ability to live in their home, according to Mondaq.

Aruba began drilling in that area in 2008 and, ever since, the family alleges numerous medical problems that led to their having to miss work and temporarily relocate, according to a prior Law360 report.

Fracking drilling involves horizontally injecting tons of silica sand, a massive mix of more than 600 chemicals, and water, at least one mile underground. The concoction is drilled into a concrete well that extends to a bed of shale rock that is located deep beneath the earth’s surface. When the combination reaches the rock, the rock is blasted apart and natural gas is released and supposed to be returned to the surface and captured; most of the water remains underground.

Some people and entities believe fracking is an answer to a downturned economy and energy dependence. Many others note that fracking drilling places fresh water supplies for millions of people at risk, with risks greater for those people who live closest to the drilling boom. Fracking opponents say the process devastates the environment and contaminates groundwater and underground water aquifers, which, then, contaminates nearby and widespread fresh water supplies.

Either through the fault of shoddy wells, poorly trained well workers, or a questionable drilling process, natural gas and the contents of the drilling fluid may be released underground through cracks in the wells or fractures created by drilling. This, many area residents closest to wells have long said, has led to contamination of their private water supplies, in some cases rendering water completely tainted.

Fracking produces potentially dangerous compounds that harm human and environmental health in every step of the process, according to a recently released paper by the California nonprofit Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy. The paper appears in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, which is published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The study collected peer-reviewed literature on shale gas drilling risks and found that leaks, poor wastewater management, and air emissions have emitted dangerous chemicals into the air and water near fracking sites nationwide, according to Mother Jones. "It's clear that the closer you are, the more elevated your risk," said lead author Seth Shonkoff, who is a visiting public health scholar at the University of California-Berkeley. "We can conclude that this process has not been shown to be safe."

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