A federal jury in Pennsylvania has awarded two families in excess of $4.2 million, following a trial that accused a hydraulic fracturing company of polluting their groundwater from fracking activities near their home.
After a three week fracking water contamination trial, the jury agreed with two families from Dimock, Pennsylvania, that argued Cabot Oil and Gas Co. caused methane to taint their drinking water. They are the last of more than 40 families in the area to resolve lawsuits over the fracking problems.
Scott Ely and Monica Marta-Ely were each awarded $1.3 million, and their three children were each awarded $50,000. Ray and Victoria Hubert were each awarded $720,000, and their daughter, Hope, was awarded $50,000.
Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, involves the injection of a mixture of water, chemicals, sand and fluids into the ground at extremely high pressure, cracking shale deposits and freeing trapped natural gas, which can then be removed. Those fluids are then supposed to be sucked from the ground and disposed of in wastewater wells. However, the controversial process has become a source of health and safety concerns throughout the U.S.
Critics have linked fracking to a variety of environmental problems, including pollution of groundwater sources and increased truck traffic pollution, as well as other concerns that fracking can reduce property values and may sicken nearby residents.
Environmentalists, a number of lawmakers, local communities and consumer advocacy groups have expressed concerns for years that fracking presents a threat to groundwater supplies and the environment.
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that some hydraulic fracturing has resulted in polluted water supplies. However, the agency noted that the problem was not yet widespread. It also noted that it lacked sufficient evidence to truly understand how widespread the problem may be.
The two families who brought the charges in this case live near Dimock, Pennsylvania, which was highlighted in the documentary “Gasland.” The film focused on water contamination from fracking and is most commonly known for scenes showing residents able to set their drinking water on fire as it came out of the tap.
Cabot has argued that the methane occurred naturally and indicated that it will try to have the awards overturned.
Other families from Dimock reached a fracking settlement with Cabot in 2012.
In a similar fracking case to go to trial in Texas in 2014, a jury awarded $2.9 million in damages to a family who alleged hydraulic fracturing near their home creating a public nuisance, indicating that nearly two dozen wells near the plaintiff’s property exposed them to toxic chemicals that damaged their health and lowered property value.