Family suing WPX Energy

BY LAURA LEGERE

Times-Shamrock Writer

A Susquehanna County family whose well water contains high levels of methane and metals filed suit against a natural gas drilling company in federal court April 9 alleging drilling damaged their water and property.

Tammy and Matthew Manning of Franklin Twp. said WPX Energy and two associated companies contaminated the aquifer through spills and poorly constructed gas wells in a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Citing state Department of Environmental Protection violations documented at six natural gas wells on two WPX well pads, known as the Hollenbeck and Depue, the family argued that the companies were negligent in drilling and operating the wells.

The Mannings, whose two daughters and three minor grandchildren also live at the home and are included in the lawsuit, have said their water became discolored and began periodically erupting from their well in December.

DEP tests that month found barium at twice the state’s safe drinking water limit and aluminum and iron at 10 times the standards set for aesthetic reasons. Methane concentrations found during state tests in December and March exceeded the point when water can no longer hold the gas, which can then collect in enclosed spaces and pose an explosion risk.

The department has not determined the cause of the methane or metals. Its investigation into the Manning water supply and two others in the hamlet of Franklin Forks is ongoing.

The closest gas wells are several thousand feet from Franklin Forks so water tests were not taken at the homes before drilling began.

WPX vented the three water wells and began providing the homes with replacement water in bulk tanks in March after DEP officials asked the company to offer help. WPX also began its own investigation into the water quality at the homes and potential sources of contamination, including a natural methane seep at nearby Salt Springs State Park.

A company spokeswoman has said mechanical problems in the Manning water well are likely to blame for the erupting water and that the company’s gas wells were properly constructed.

WPX spokeswoman Susan Oliver said Monday that the company does not comment on litigation. “We’ve been very responsive to the residents who have had questions or concerns in the area and are working cooperatively with the DEP,” she said, “even though we have no reason to believe that our activities are connected to the problems they’ve experienced.”

The Mannings are seeking an injunction barring WPX from further drilling and gas-production activities in the area of the Hollenbeck and Depue wells, as well as monetary damages and the cost of remediation and future health monitoring.