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Fracking is toxic for kids, suit says

by Linda Satter | September 15, 2011 at 5:48 a.m.

— A White County grandmother filed a federal lawsuit Monday on behalf of her 2- and 4-year-old grandchildren, who live with her in Bradford and who she fears may suffer ill effects from a nearby hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation.

The lawsuit names CUDD Pumping Services Inc., RPC Inc. and CUDD Energy Services, all Delaware corporations with offices in Atlanta and Houston, as defendants. It says the companies stirred up toxic contaminants while using fracturing on three natural-gas wells about 250 feet from the home of grandparents Kevin and Tina Scoggin at 708 Scoggin Road in August.

Fracking is designed to create fractures in a strata of shale rock beneath wellheads. It involves shooting millions of gallons of a mixture of water and chemicals, including “poisons and carcinogens,” into a pre-drilled wellbore “at extremely high pressures,” the suit says.

“The combination of extreme pressure along with the highly volatile chemical cocktail results in fracturing of the shale formation and the subsequent release of natural gas,” the suit explains.

It asserts, “Due to the nature of the fracking process, chemicals including known poisons and carcinogens are released into the air and around the fracking site.”

The recent operation, the suit alleges, released large amounts of benzene, xylene and methylene chloride, which “infiltrated and contaminated” the Scoggins’ home.

It describes benzene as a known carcinogen that is “highly toxic to human beings,” with longer and higher concentrations leading to greater injury. The cancer it causes is predominantly leukemia, in particular, acute myeloid leukemia, which is otherwise very rare, the lawsuit says.

The suit describes xylene as a “suspected” carcinogen and methyl chloride as a “probable” carcinogen.

“Minor children ... are acutely susceptible to injury from benzene exposure,” the lawsuit contends, adding that development of acute myeloid leukemia from benzene “takes up to 10 years to fully manifest itself.”

During the fracking process, it alleges, “dense clouds of a toxic mixture of atomized chemicals wafted from the fracking site onto the land and premises” where the children live.

“Air quality measurements taken in the Scoggins home during the fracking operations revealed toxic levels” of the chemicals, the suit asserts.

The defendants should have known this would happen, and took no actions to try to lessen the contamination, indicating that they acted with reckless disregard for the rights and safety of the plaintiffs and others, the lawsuit contends. It was filed by attorneys Timothy R. Houlton of Memphis and Michael P. McGartland of Fort Worth.

A spokesman for CUDD in Atlanta didn’t immediately return a reporter’s call about the lawsuit on Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that the chemicals released through the fracking operation “are of a toxic and hazardous nature capable of causing severe personal injuries and damages to persons and property, and are therefore ultra hazardous and abnormally dangerous.”

Attorneys accused the company of being a nuisance, trespassing, being negligent, and being liable for compensatory and punitive damages. They also asked that the court establish a monetary fund to pay for biannual monitoring of the plaintiffs to determine whether they have suffered any harm from air, soil, groundwater, and atmospheric contamination of their home.

The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge James Moody.

The lawsuit is one of several that have recently been filed in federal court against natural-gas companies accusing them of harming people in the Fayetteville Shale. Other suits contend that fracking operations are contaminating groundwater and devaluing homes.

The shale-gas industry has boomed in recent years in the Fayetteville Shale in north-central Arkansas, jumping from only a handful of wells in 2005 to more than 3,000 this year.

Information for this article was contributed by Paul P. Quinn of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Business, Pages 27 on 09/15/2011

Print Headline: Fracking is toxic for kids, suit says


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