A Texas family’s nuisance lawsuit seeks $9 million in damages from Aruba Petroleum, a company drilling natural gas wells near their property, for exposing them to the hazardous gases, chemicals and industrial wastes in the fracking process that are making them sick.
The Parr family, who filed the lawsuit, owns 40 acres of property in Wise County, Texas, near 22 gas wells drilled by Aruba Petroleum, Law360 reports. The lawsuit alleges that since Aruba started drilling in 2008, they have suffered numerous medical problems, and at times, they say, they were so sick they couldn’t work. The lawsuit attributes their illnesses to benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, and other volatile organic compounds from the drilling sites. “Aruba is a reckless natural gas company that makes people sick,” the Parrs’ attorney said in his opening statement. “Make them stop.”
In hydraulic fracturing – fracking – large amounts of highly pressurized water and chemicals are injected underground to fracture the shale layer and release natural gas and oil. Fracking is controversial because of the risks of air, water, and soil contamination in the process itself; the heavy demands placed on local water supplies; and the problem of properly disposing of chemical-laced wastewater. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created a 31-member panel to study the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.
In 2011 the Parrs sued Aruba and other drilling companies operating in the Barnett Shale, according to Law360. In addition to medical damages, the Parrs claim that Aruba’s drilling activity constitutes a trespass on their property and they say their property value plummeted because of the gas wells. In January, the Parrs’ negligence claims against Encana Oil & Gas and Aruba were dismissed, but Dallas County Court Judge Mark Greenberg allowed the nuisance and trespass claims to go forward. Aruba says it operates within industry standards and that its drilling operations did not cause the Parr’s health problems.