Shale Drilling Contaminated Water, Families Say in Lawsuit
25 May 2012
By Don Hopey
Three Washington County families claim in a lawsuit that they face
serious health problems, including a heightened risk of cancer,
because Range Resources Inc. and two water testing laboratories
conspired to alter test results and exposed them to hazardous
The lawsuit, filed today in Washington County Common Pleas Court
by attorneys John and Kendra Smith, is based on information
contained in hundreds of pages of water test reports and
documents, many subpoenaed from Range and other defendants.
In addition to Range, defendants named in the suit include 12 of
the drilling company's subcontractors or suppliers, two
individuals and the two water testing laboratories. A jury trial
The lawsuit claims Range knew its shale gas development operation
on the Yeager farm property on McAdams Road in Amwell Township had
contaminated the groundwater with chemicals from a leaking
drilling waste pit and a 3-million-gallon hydraulic fracturing
fluid flowback impoundment as early as November 2010.
But it told the plaintiffs that tests showed their well water was
safe to drink, shower and bathe in, cook with, and provide to farm
animals and pets.
Some of those animals were sickened, and some died.
"It's unfortunate that our clients had no choice but to file a
civil action due to damage not only caused to their water and
property, but to their health," said Mr. Smith in a written
response for comment. "Had the DEP [state Department of
Environmental Protection] protected these people, it may have been
a different outcome."
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella issued a statement saying the
company cares about the quality of its operations and stands by
testing that "has repeatedly proven that our operations have had
no adverse impacts in this instance." His statement went on to
attack the motives of the law firm representing the Amwell
residents, and its tactics, which he characterized as
"This isn't about health and safety; it's unfortunately about a
lawyer hoping to pad his pockets, while frightening a lot of
people along the way," he said.
Range, which has attempted to foster a friendly, folksy, corporate
image in commercials and ads featuring regular rural residents and
leaseholders, has maintained for years that its Yeager operations,
which include one "fracked" well and two drilled wells, condensate
tanks, the flowback fluids impoundment and drill cuttings pit,
have not contaminated groundwater.
But full and complete test results subpoenaed from Range but never
revealed to residents near the Yeager well site show that chemical
contaminants similar to those found in the fracking flowback
impoundment and the drill cuttings pit were also found in water
samples from wells and springs.
Range showed or sent to the plaintiffs and the DEP less detailed
test reports that showed many chemical contaminants were "not
detected" in the water samples, but, the lawsuit says, omitted
results for others, including several semi-volatile organic
compounds that were present in the groundwater samples and the
company's impoundment and pit, and that showed the water was
Because they relied on the test reports, the plaintiffs -- Stacey,
Harley and Paige Haney; Beth, John and Ashley Voyles; and Loren
and Grace Kiskadden -- continued to drink, cook and bathe in the
And according to the suit, they developed a multitude of health
problems, including nose bleeds, headaches and dizziness, skin
rashes, stomachaches, ear infections, nausea, numbness in
extremities, loss of sense of smell and bone pain. Because of
their prolonged exposure to a number of cancer-causing chemicals
in the air and water, they also have an increased risk of
developing cancers, they contend.
In addition to Range, defendants include Gateway Engineers Inc.
and Gateway engineer Scott Rusmisel; Carla Suszkowski of Range
Resources; New Dominion Construction Inc.; Terrafix Environmental
Technology Inc.; Skaps Industries Inc.; Engineered Synthetic
Products Inc.; Red Oak Water Transfer NE, LLC; Microbac
Laboratories Inc.; Multi-Chem Group, LLC; Universal Well Services
Inc.; Halliburton Energy Services Inc.; Saxon Drilling, L.P.;
Highland Environmental, LLC; EAP Industries Inc.; and Test America
Don Hopey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983.