Tunkhannock man charged in frackwater drinking incident

BY STACI WILSON

After a man unknowingly drank treated frack water out of a water jug at a Dimock worksite in June, he immediately became nauseous and was taken to an area hospital for treatment. A co-worker was cited with a summary disorderly conduct charge for bringing the jug into the break room at the site.

Jason Conklin, 31, Tunkhannock, was found guilty Monday by Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey Hollister and issued a $250 fine.

Conklin apologized to the man who drank the water, saying he never intended for anyone to drink from the jug.

Judge Hollister found that by bringing the jug of treated frack water into the break room Conklin created a hazardous situation.

“It was an error,” Hollister said. “You didn’t intend for it to happen but it happened.”

Conklin was employed at ComTech Industries at the time and was terminated shortly after the incident.

ComTech provides on-site, water treatment for Marcellus Shale fracturing, reclaiming frack water to be re-used in the natural gas drilling process.

Both the victim and site supervisor Matthew Gilroy, who also appeared in court, said it was company policy that no treated or untreated water was to be taken into the break room at the site. Conklin said he was not aware of that policy.

The victim said he used a gallon jug of water marked “Do Not Drink – Night Shift Water” to make a pot of coffee. He said that he planned to buy more water that day to replace what he used.

Although the treated water has a sulfur smell, the victim said he does not have a sense of smell and quickly drank a cup of the coffee.

He said he quickly realized the water was not the spring water he assumed it was.

“It was like putting 15 saltines in your mouth all at once,” he told the court.

The man said he was diagnosed with an intestinal irritation that he reported lasted four to five days.

On the stand, Conklin said said he placed the jug of the treated water in the break room to use for test samples. No jars used for testing samples were available at the time, he said, and he wanted to preserve the treated sample.

“It wasn’t a prank,” Conklin said. “Someone could die.”

Conklin admitted he should have written “Treated Frack Water” on the jug instead of “Do Not Drink – Night Shift Water.”