According to a recent article, since 2005 the US has seen the creation of “more than 3,200 new fracking wells and 16,000 acres of damaged land.” Additionally, the number of permits that have been granted to natural gas drilling companies has remained fairly consistent. In 2009, 426 Marcellus wells were permitted and 125 were drilled in West Virginia, and in 2010, 433 were permitted and 58 drilled in the state. Since this time the numbers have remained about the same.
In terms of the impact of fracking in the state, it has been reported that from “2010-2014 West Virginia had 122 complaints that drilling contaminated water wells in the state [where] four of those cases were strong enough to force drillers to take corrective action.” From this same report, it was noted that there were “two hazardous chemicals associated with fracking, ammonium and iodide, being released and spilled into Pennsylvania and West Virginia waterways [and] the chemicals could have devastating impacts on the environment and wildlife.” The fracking-associated chemicals were “making their way into streams and rivers, both accidentally and through deliberate release from treatment plants that were never designed to handle these contaminants.” Both of these chemicals are not currently regulated in oil and gas wastewaters.
Although there remains some uncertainty regarding the long-term and potential health effects from exposure to contaminants from the fracking industry, many families and property owners are seeking legal claims when they suffer some sort of health effects or harms. Medical monitoring in the environmental context is defined as the medical evaluation, assessment, and monitoring of potential risks and health effects related to pollution-based exposure.
In the environmental fracking context, this means providing families that live in proximity to fracking activities regular medical checkups, water and air quality testing, and evaluations for adverse exposure to pollution. Additionally, it requires that the industry determined to be responsible for such environmental exposure provide a medical monitoring fund or other compensation to cover any and all expenses related to such reasonable medical monitoring activities taken on behalf of those potentially affected.
In circumstances where medical monitoring identifies that an individual or class of individuals have developed a severe medical condition related to fracking activities, then the natural gas drilling companies, as part of their obligations under a medical monitoring based agreement, are required to pay for any and all ongoing medical expenses needed to treat the exposed patients. As fracking continues to become more common in West Virginia, impacted families and property owners will have to determine the best course of action to address any potential health claims they may experience. Medical monitoring with respect to fracking represents an increasingly viable option to preserve an individual or families’ medical claims, especially since medical conditions related to fracking may or may not present themselves for years to come.
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If you or someone you know have been exposed to environmental contamination as a result of fracking activities, you need attorneys with experience in such personal injury matters. Colombo Law is highly experienced in such matters and can evaluate your potential legal claims on your behalf.