Energy firm disputes contamination claim

Energy firm disputes contamination claim by The Times-Tribune, September 16, 2010
A Houston company drilling for gas in Susquehanna County disputes that it contaminated drinking water for 13 families in Lenox Twp. On Tuesday, the families filed a lawsuit that said Southwestern Energy Production Co. leaked hazardous chemicals into their water, made them sick and damaged their property while drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Southwestern spokesman John Nicholas said Wednesday the lawsuit has no merit. “We didn’t see any link between Southwestern’s well and their water quality issues they were complaining of,” said Mr. Nicholas, the company’s Appalachian asset manager.

Tests by state regulators in 2008 found elevated levels of barium, strontium and manganese in the families’ wells. But the state Department of Environmental Protection could not connect the chemicals to the fracking process, where a mix of water, sand and chemicals is used to be break the shale. … An attorney for the plaintiffs has said there is “no question” the drilling was to blame. Southwestern ran its own tests that similarly showed elevated levels of barium, but the source was not the drilling, Mr. Nicholas said. He said the company cannot speculate why the chemical levels were high. Southwestern has not yet been served with the lawsuit. “We haven’t had time to read through it and digest it,” Mr. Nicholas said. The lawsuit also claims an infant in one of the families has neurological symptoms consistent with heavy metal poisoning. It asks for an injunction and monetary damages.

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