Jun 23, 2011

Texas Couple Sues Companies Over Water Well Contamination

Suit alleges that contamination resulted from drilling in Barnett Shale

Allen Stewart, P.C., filed suit this week on behalf of a Weatherford, Texas, couple claiming more than $6.5 million in damages arising from contamination of their potable water supply caused by gas drilling and extraction in the Barnett Shale. The defendants in the Parker County suit include Weatherford-based Silverado on the Brazos Development Co. #1 LTD and Fort Worth, Texas-based drilling company Range Production Co. and Range Resources Corp.

The water well at issue was drilled in 2005 and contained no methane gas for approximately the next five years. In the summer of 2010, plaintiffs Steven and Shyla Lipsky discovered that their well water contained benzene, toluene, ethane and a large amount of methane gas. Due to the large amount of methane present, the well is no longer usable. The Lipskys now must ship in their water at a significant cost.

The Lipskys soon learned that Range had begun to extract gas from the Barnett Shale formation near their home in direct violation of the Silverado development’s covenants. In December 2010, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed an emergency order against Range, finding that the hydrocarbons in the Lipskys’ well water were likely caused by gas drilling and posed serious health risks.

Natural gas drilling in shale fields is controversial because part of the production process, called hydraulic fracturing, requires large amounts of sand, water and chemicals to be injected under high pressure into a well bore to break through rocks and release the gas. The drilling process, if done improperly, can also impact underground aquifers, contaminating water supplies.

The Lipskys seek $6.5 million in property losses and other damages—their home has been significantly devalued since the contamination was discovered—as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.

“The Lipskys built their dream home in Silverado, trusting that the water under their land would not be threatened by gas extraction,” said Allen Stewart, lead attorney in the case. “The developers broke their promise to prohibit gas extraction in the community, and Range refuses to admit that its actions contributed to the Lipskys’ water problem. They all need to be held accountable.”

Also representing the Lipskys are Stephanie Brooks, also of Allen Stewart, P.C., and David Ritter of Fort Worth.