2012-06-28 / Local & State

$1.6M Settlement In Pa. Gas Drilling Lawsuit

By Kevin Begos

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Three northeastern Pennsylvania families have reached a $1.6 million settlement with a gas drilling company over contaminated water wells.

But Jared McMicken of Wyalusing said the agreement reached Thursday provides little comfort since his drinking water was ruined by nearby drilling, and his family must move.

The dispute with Oklahoma based Chesapeake Energy began in 2010. Wyalusing is about 160 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

McMicken said he and the other families in the case insisted that any settlement be made public. The arbitration trial began this week and was settled on the fourth day.

Attorney Todd O’Malley said he believes this is the first case involving pollution in the Marcellus Shale region where settlement terms were publicly disclosed. Past disputes have been sealed.

Chesapeake said in a statement that it believes there is no permanent damage to the properties and that other water wells in the area showed natural contamination before drilling began. McMicken disputed that, saying his water and that of his neighbors was fine before the drilling.

Last year the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake just over $1 million for contaminating the water supplies of 16 families in the area, including McMicken’s. A transcript of expert testimony in the settlement showed that experts from DEP agreed that faulty cement casings on the wells allowed gas and other substances to migrate from deep underground and pollute the water wells. Attorney John Romano said he’s representing about 30 other families in the region with similar claims.

Under the terms of the settlement the families will have to give Chesapeake the properties by the end of 2012.

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