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Family made ill by fracking awarded $3 million in landmark case

Attorney: "We hope this verdict will prompt companies that engage in fracking operations to take responsibility for the health problems and property damage caused by their activities."
By JC Sevcik   |   April 23, 2014 at 6:37 PM
| License Photo

DALLAS, April 23 (UPI) -- A jury in Dallas, Texas awarded nearly $3 million to a family for illnesses they suffered as a result of nearby fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process by which a high-pressure fluid, one which contains up to 600 chemicals that include known carcinogens, is injected into the ground to fracture shale rock and release natural gas. As much as 50-80 percent of this non-biodegradable fluid is left behind in the ground. Fracking critics claim this process can contaminate ground water, pollute air quality, and release airborne chemicals.

A press release from the family's lawyer claims, “Robert and Lisa Parr, along with their young daughter, began experiencing health problems in 2009, after Aruba began drilling the first of 20 wells which the company operates less than two miles from the Parr’s ranch near Decatur, Texas -- about 45 miles northwest of Fort Worth.”

The Parr family reported migraines, rashes, dizziness, nausea, and chronic nose bleeds, which they attributed to the nearby drilling operations.

They claimed Aruba’s efforts to extract the gas sickened their family and their livestock and lowered their property value.

Studies have found that living near fracking sites and exposure to chemicals used in the process can lead to cancer, infertility and birth defects, among other health problems.

According to their attorney David Matthews of Matthews and Associates, air quality tests conducted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found hazardous air within a quarter mile of the Parr’s residence.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, Aruba Petroleum said, "We contended the plaintiffs were neither harmed by the presence of our drilling operations nor was the value of their property diminished because of our natural gas development.”

“These companies make millions of dollars at the expense of people’s health and property without any financial benefit to the actual buyers of natural gas. In fact, natural gas prices are on the rise,” Matthews said.

“We hope this verdict will prompt companies that engage in fracking operations to take responsibility for the health problems and property damage caused by their activities,” Matthews told Al Jazeera.

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