Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as "fracking," is the technique for extracting natural gas that has been behind the boom in energy production in Texas and across the country.
But fracking has also been controversial, with some scientists claiming it can contaminate groundwater with methane and lead to toxic levels of benzene exposure.
A man near Fort Worth discovered that the groundwater that feeds his well was contaminated with methane. He reported to the Environmental Protection Agency that his home's water was so saturated with methane that it bubbled as if it were carbonated. He would even light his water on fire.
After an investigation, the EPA concluded that the contamination was likely due to fracking activities by Range Resources, which had a natural gas production site about a mile from the man's home. However, a Texas agency came to the opposite conclusion and found that Range Resources was not responsible for the contamination.
After a protracted federal legal battle, the EPA inexplicably changed its thinking and stopped pursuing Range Resources.
Meanwhile, the man still cannot use his water because it would expose him to toxic levels of cancer causing chemicals, including benzene. The man has accused the EPA of ignoring its own evidence and refusing to protect him and his family.
Benzene is a known carcinogenic and extended benzene exposure can lead to leukemia, aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkins' lymphoma. All these conditions require long-term and expensive medical treatment. Compounding these expenses is the fact that many victims do not have a steady income because they are unable to work.
Given all the expenses that a person can incur, victims may choose to seek compensation for their injuries. Additionally, a lawsuit can also put a stop to continued contamination and exposure. As the man in Fort Worth found out, the government cannot protect all people from toxic exposure. For many victims, the only real avenue to protect themselves from toxic exposure and be adequately compensated for their injuries is through toxic tort litigation.
Source: San Antonio Express-News, "EPA Backed Down Against Driller," Jan. 16, 2013