Chesapeake to Pay $1.6 Million for Contaminating Water Wells in Bradford County

Chesapeake to Pay $1.6 Million for Contaminating Water Wells in Bradford County by Susan Phillips, June 21, 2012, State Impact Pennsylvania
Chesapeake Energy has agreed to pay $1.6 million in damages to three families in Wyalusing, Bradford County. The case may be the first Marcellus contamination lawsuit to get resolved without a nondisclosure agreement, meaning the parties can speak freely about the case. Todd O’Malley, an attorney for two of the families, says the plaintiffs insisted on not signing a confidentiality agreement. “They wanted the public to know what the settlement was about,” says O’Malley. O’Malley says the majority of gas drilling related cases get settled without any public disclosure, including the causes of the contamination, or the health impacts. “I think the nondisclosure form is probably the worst form,” says O’Malley. “It’s referred to as ‘toxic secrets.’ The public deserves to know.” The families, living along Paradise Road, all signed leases with Chesapeake Appalachia to drill beneath their land. But in July, 2010, the residents began to notice muddy water coming from their water wells. Chesapeake supplied a filtration system, which residents say did not work. O’Malley says his investigators concluded that a poor cement job resulted in methane migrating from the Marcellus Shale formation into the water supply of nearby residents. … O’Malley says all three families signed leases that forced any dispute into arbitration, which typically leads to smaller financial settlements than jury trials. “They deserved much more money,” said O’Malley. “With what they went through, you couldn’t pay them enough. But this is enough to get them out and into new homes.” Chesapeake also agreed to buy the homes from the families, which is included in the $1.6 million. But the company says their drilling practices did not cause methane migration. In a written statement, Chesapeake says no pre-drill water tests were conducted at these homes, which leaves open the question of whether the methane was present before drilling occurred.

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