North Texas families sue oil and gas drillers over contaminated water and fracking

Workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation outside Rifle, in western Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

GRAFORD, Texas (AP) - Two families in rural North Texas have sued oil and gas drilling companies, claiming hazardous chemicals from hydraulic fracturing seeped into their water wells.

Richard and Stella Singleton said their water well was fine until the summer of 2013, when Fairway Resources fracked an oil and gas well a few hundred yards from their house.

By December of that year, the Singletons said their water started to smell like rotten eggs, fumes filled their home and the water burned their skin.

Their neighbor's water well house filled with methane and exploded, severely burning him, his father and daughter last year. The neighbor, Cody Murray, is also suing.

The state's oil and gas regulator, the Texas Railroad Commission, said in a report that the Singletons' well water contained chemicals including excessive levels of methane and cancer-causing benzene that may pose "adverse health effects" and an "explosion hazard."

The agency attributed the contamination to a "natural occurrence in the groundwater" and recommended the family vent its water well, WFAA-TV reported.

There were no baseline water tests to prove the chemicals did not already exist.

However, a study published by University of Texas at Arlington scientists earlier this year inferred a link between water well contamination and hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett Shale, the massive natural gas field beneath North Texas.

UTA scientists said water samples throughout the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of toxic chemicals.

"Based on these results, something has gone horribly wrong here," Dr. Zacariah L. Hildenbrand, one of the UTA-affiliated scientists reviewing the Singletons' water well, told the TV station.

The Railroad Commission said its investigations into the two cases of contamination are ongoing.

"These incredibly unnatural events, from methane spewing out of a shower, to methane exploding in a fireball from a water well, don't match 'naturally occurring,' " said Christopher Hamilton, a lawyer representing both families.


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