New information raised in Amwell well water contamination case by Francesca Sacco October 16, 2015, Observer Reporter
Newly discovered evidence in a case filed by an Amwell Township man who claims Range Resources contaminated his drinking water could result in a new trial before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board.
According to a motion filed Wednesday in Commonwealth Court by attorneys for Loren Kiskadden, the gas company failed to reveal the use of radioactive tracers, which chart and analyze the reach of hydraulic fracturing. Range was previously ordered to turn over a detailed list of all the chemicals and components of substances used at the site since 2009.
Kiskadden’s attorneys, John and Kendra Smith, argue the use of tracers was not previously disclosed, and at least one of newly disclosed tracers was detected in Kiskadden’s drinking water.
In June, EHB Chief and Chairman Thomas W. Renwand determined Kiskadden “failed to meet his burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that his water well was impacted by gas drilling operations conducted by Range Resources,” according to court documents. Kiskadden lives along Banetown Road, having moved there in 2008. In June 2011, while filling a child-sized pool, Kiskadden claims his water began foaming, contained gray sludge and had a rotten-egg odor. His well sits a half-mile away from Range’s Yeager impoundment. He filed a lawsuit in 2012 and has since been embattled with Range. In September, the board held a 20-day trial on the issue, which included a tour of the property.
While Renwand agreed a “number of problems existed at the Yeager site,” he said Kiskadden did not prove the various leaks and spills that occurred at the Yeager site lead to the contamination of his water. The DEP included those problems when it issued Range a record-setting $4.15 million fine for various leaks and other problems at six of the company’s water impoundments in Washington County.
The Smiths asked the Commonwealth Court to vacate the hearing board decision denying their client’s contamination claim and send the case back to the board for a new hearing. John Smith said they filed an initial appeal to the hearing board’s June decision last month.
The tracer information was discovered during sworn dispositions from employees of Multi-Chem and Universal Well Services Inc., two of Range’s fracking subcontractors on the Yeager site. The employees were subpoenaed for a separate case, in which Kiskadden is also a party with neighbors Stacey, Harley and Paige Haney and Beth, John and Ashley Voyles, charging Range with negligence, partly over allegations it allowed a hole to develop in the liner of the impoundment, contaminating the soil and groundwater.
Wednesday’s motion also acknowledges the use of antimony – one of three solid tracers used at the site by Protechnics, another Range subcontractor – was found at a level four times the federal maximum acceptable for drinking water in Kiskadden’s well.
Range previously argued Kiskadden’s water was typical of the area’s groundwater. However, the Smiths argue Range concealed a draft letter from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that showed Kiskadden’s water contains high concentrations of sodium, methane, arsenic and diesel range organics at levels “high enough to affect your health.”
Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said Friday in an email Range did not contaminate Kiskadden’s water supply.
“After conducting a very thorough analysis, the EHB upheld the DEP’s determination that Range’s activities did not impact Mr. Kiskadden’s water supply. This well-founded decision supplements a wealth of scientific evidence, including a multi-year study conducted by the EPA, demonstrating that drilling is being done safely and is well regulated. There’s no additional information in this filing that changes the fact that Range and the broader industry is protective of the environment and the public and that Range’s activities did not impact Mr. Kiskadden’s water supply in any way.”
He alleges chemical tracers were heavily relied upon during the board’s hearing and determination.
“This filing in no way affects the EHB’s evaluation and ruling inasmuch as there was extensive discussion on the record by all of the experts on both sides of the appeal of other ‘chemical tracers’ including chlorides and isotopic analysis of methane,” he said. “As determined by the EHB and the DEP there is no hydrogeological connection between the Range location and the water well, nearly a mile away.”
New information surfaces in Washington County water well contamination complaint by Don Hopey, October 16, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Range Resources used chemical and low-grade radioactive isotope “tracers” to chart and analyze the reach of hydraulic fracturing done on a gas well in Amwell in 2009.
But, according to a motion filed Wednesday in Commonwealth Court by attorneys for Loren “Buzz” Kiskadden, the gas drilling company didn’t tell nearby property owners in Washington County who were dealing with contaminated water wells.
And last fall, the motion continued, Range didn’t say it used specially formulated fracking tracers during a hearing before the state Environmental Hearing Board, after which the board affirmed the state Department of Environmental Protection’s determination that Range’s Yeager 7H shale gas well in Amwell didn’t contaminate Mr. Kiskadden’s water.
Now his lawyers, John and Kendra Smith, are tracking those recently revealed tracers as they try to map a hydrogeologic link between Mr. Kiskadden’s water well and Range’s Yeager gas well and an adjacent, leaky 13.5-million gallon fracking wastewater impoundment.
The Smiths are asking Commonwealth Court to vacate the hearing board decision denying their client’s contamination claim and send the case back to the board for a rehearing on the new evidence. They filed an initial appeal of the hearing board decision last month.
LEGAL DOCUMENT – [EXCELLENT READ! NO LEGAL MUMBO JUMBO!]
The tracer information came from sworn depositions by employees of Multi-Chem and Universal Well Services Inc., two of Range’s fracking stage subcontractors on the Yeager well. The employees were subpoenaed for a separate but parallel case in Washington County involving additional allegations of water contamination from Range’s Yeager well site.
“We just stumbled upon it in the depositions, but it shows we didn’t have all the information, and the information we didn’t have could have changed the outcome at the EHB,” Mr. Smith said. “The EHB never had a chance to look at this evidence, and that’s prejudicial to the case.”
According to the filing, antimony — one of three solid tracers used at the Yeager well by Protechnics — another Range subcontractor, was also found at four times the federal maximum contaminant level for drinking water in Mr. Kiskadden’s well.
The filing also alleges that Range, which argued during the case that Mr. Kiskadden’s water was typical of the area’s ground water, concealed a draft letter by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that showed the water to contain high concentrations of sodium, total dissolved solids, methane, arsenic and “diesel range organics,” some “high enough to affect your health …”
In response to questions about allegations in the Commonwealth Court filing, Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella cited the hearing board’s June decision and an EPA study in maintaining that the company’s operations didn’t contaminate Mr. Kiskadden’s water.
“There’s no additional information in this filing that changes the fact that Range and the broader industry is protective of the environment and the public,” Mr. Pitzarella wrote in an email response to questions, “and that Range’s activities did not impact Mr. Kiskadden’s water supply in any way.”
The drilling boom in Pennsylvania is a decade old, but little is known about tracers, the chemical and low-level radio nuclei added to the fracking process to assess the success of drilling thousands of feet underground. [Emphasis and Images added]
[Refer also to:
An Amwell Township man is appealing the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board’s June 12 decision that determined he failed to prove his water well was impacted by gas drilling operations conducted by Range Resources.
Loren Kiskadden and his attorneys, John and Kendra Smith, claim the EHB disregarded evidence. The appeal was filed Thursday in Commonwealth Court.
Kiskadden, along with his mother Grace, live on Banetown Road, having moved there in 2008. In June 2011, while filling a child-sized pool, Kiskadden claims his water began foaming, contained gray sludge and had a rotten-egg odor. Their well sits a half-mile from the Yeager impoundment. They filed a lawsuit in 2012 and have since been embattled with Range. In September, the board held a 20-day trial on the issue, which included a tour of the property. The EHB decision, filed by EHB Chief Judge and Chairman Thomas W. Renwand, determined Kiskadden failed to “demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that a hydrogeological connection exists between his water well and the Range site.” A hydrogeological connection would be a groundwater connection between the Yeager site and Kiskadden’s water supply.
But Kiskadden’s attorney, John Smith, claims they’ve satisfied the burden of proof, and the Yeager site is indeed the source of contamination in Kiskadden’s water. “The EHB adjudication was an abuse of discretion and not supported by substantial evidence,” Smith said in his appeal.
Smith lists numerous examples, including that EHB failed to “employ and address the definitive test for establishing a hydrogeological connection.”
“The EHB erred in failing to address the suite of contaminants associated with oil and gas activities as defined by the DEP and the Environmental Protection Board found leaking at the Yeager site, which were also found in Kiskadden’s water,” the appeal continues.
Smith said in a phone interview Thursday, the EHB did not find a connection between contaminants found at the Yeager site and the same chemicals that were found in the Kiskaddens’ water.
“As the EHB failed to utilize the definitive test in order to determine the presence of a hydrogeological connection as set forth by the DEP, from the numerous contaminants found leaking from the drill site, which were also detected in our clients client’s drinking water, we had no choice but to seek appellate review,” Smith said Thursday.
Smith said there also wasn’t evidence to support Range’s contention a junkyard on the property was causing the contamination.
Range Resources issued a statement saying, “We have not seen the appeal, which they have the right to file, but we respect and appreciate the legal process in Pennsylvania. Both the DEP and a panel of five judges at the EHB determined that natural gas operations did not impact this water well and we are confident that the court will reach the same conclusion.”
Range is still emroiled in another lawsuit with the Kiskaddens and neighbors Stacey, Harley and Paige Haney and Beth, John and Ashley Voyles, charging Range with negligence, partly over allegations it allowed a hole to develop in the liner of the impoundment, contaminating the soil and groundwater.
The Haney case was also mentioned in the June 12 filing, noting their and the Voyles’ water supplies were not affected and lower levels of certain contaminants were found in the water compared to the Kiskaddens water supplies.
2015: PA issuing $8.9 million civil penalty for Range Resources leaking gas well that caused gas migration into drinking water wells. “(Range) has the responsibility to eliminate the gas migration that this poorly constructed well is causing,” said state Environmental Secretary John Quigley. “Refusing to make the necessary repairs to protect the public and the environment is not an option.”
2015 05: West Virginia truck driver, Russell Evans, suing Range Resources over injury claim: ordered to keep working in wet clothes after splashed with flowback water, suffered chemical burns, blisters, rashes
2015 04: Texas Supreme Court Allows Range Resources to Continue Defamation, Disparagement Lawsuit against Steve Lipsky, Citizen with Flammable Methane Contaminated Drinking Water after Nearby Fracking by Range
2015 01: Drilling and Fracing Bring Up Ammonium and Iodide, Researchers find alarming levels of these new contaminants in wastewater released into Pennsylvania and West Virginia streams while Range Resources settles with DEP for $1.75 Million