Suit claims gas drilling contaminated drinking water

RIPLEY – A Jackson County family alleges the actions of four energy companies have not only damaged their property, but also their health.

Dennis and Tamera Hagy filed a five-count lawsuit in against Equitable Production Company, Warren Drilling Company, Inc., BJ Services Company, USA and Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. in Jackson Circuit Court. In their complaint filed Oct. 26, the Hagys allege methods used by the four when drilling for natural gas near their property two years ago lead to contamination of their drinking water.

According to the complaint, Dennis contacted Equitable on Oct. 27, 2008, with concerns his water had "a peculiar smell and taste." Located in Pittsburg, Pa, Equitable operates four natural gas wells near the Hagy's property in Romance.

The suit maintains the wells are 1,080 feet from their property including their home, and water well. The Hagys used the well for "drinking, bathing, cooking, washing and other daily residential and business uses."

Later on Nov. 13, the Hagys say they were contacted by Equitable telling them to stop drinking water from the well. Five days later, they allege "an Agent of [Equitable's] drilling process caused damage to [their] property."

According to the suit, Equitable contracted Warren, of Dexter City, Ohio, and BJ Services and Halliburton, both of Houston, Texas, to extract the natural gas from the wells. The method they used was horizontal drilling, or hydraulic fracturing, which involves boring "fracking fluid" into the ground under extreme pressure to dislodge the natural gas from the shale.

Though it does not specify, the suit alleges the fracking fluid contains "hazardous chemicals [that] are carcinogenic and toxic." Also, in any drilling operation other hazardous materials such as diesel fuel and lubricating materials are used.

It is these, and other pollutants, the Hagys allege that Equitable, Warren, BJ Services and Halliburton discharged into the ground that eventually contaminated their water supply. As a result of drinking the contaminated water, the Hagys allege both they, and their sons, Clark and Dustin, have manifested neurological symptoms consistent with exposure to heavy metals including manganese.

Both Dustin and Clark, who live in Ripley and Columbus, Ohio, respectively, are co-plaintiffs in the suit.

In the suit, the Hagys allege the four knew the chemicals used in drilling for the natural gas could potentially pollute the nearby water supply, but did not take the necessary precautions to prevent it, and alert the public about it. In addition to ones for negligence and strict liability, the Hagys make claims against Equitable, Warren, BJ Services and Halliburton for nuisance, and trespassing.

Along with unspecified damages that include remediation of all hazardous materials from their drinking water, and costs for medical monitoring, the Hagys seeking an injunction barring Equitable, Warren, BJ and Halliburton from further drilling in the wells. They are represented by Eric J. Holmes with the Ripley law firm of Harris and Holmes.

The case is assigned to Judge Thomas C. Evans III.

Jackson Circuit Court case number 10-C-163

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