Prathers file suits over poisoning of springs, seeking jury trial, damages
August 6, 2010
DeBeque outfitter Ned Prather and his family have filed two lawsuits against natural gas drilling companies that, the lawsuits say, were responsible for poisoning several springs used by the family for ranching, commercial hunting and other activities.
The lawsuits, which ask for a jury trial and an undetermined cash award, are aimed at the Williams Production RMT Co. and Nonsuch Natural Gas Inc. Both companies had natural gas operations in the area of the Prathers’ 1,800-acre property northwest of Parachute in 2008.
The Nonsuch suit, filed on July 14, describes the gas company as owner of a well-pad that was within 500 feet of the Prather cabin and two springs.
According to the lawsuit, the company set up an earthen pit in the same spot as a previously-built “unlined reserve mud pit,” and used the newer pit to hold up to 5,500 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluids, “flow-back water” and “production water,” all used in the drilling process.
The suit alleges that toxic chemicals from that pit showed up in two Prather-owned springs, and contributed to a May 30, 2008, event in which Ned Prather drank water piped into his cabin from one of the springs and got so sick he had to be hospitalized.
A second lawsuit, filed on Aug. 1, accuses Williams of similar acts involving a well pad about 1,600 feet from the Prather facilities, and claims that the company’s negligence brought on more than two-years’ worth of damages to the family’s property, personal injuries, loss of business and loss of income.
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The Williams suit also leaves damages up to a jury.
Williams officials have declined to comment on the issues arising from the Prather incident in 2008, other than to deny that their operations caused the contamination (see related story).
Nonsuch, along with several other companies with gas drilling operations in the area near the Prathers’ cabin and springs, was absolved of any wrong doing in connection with the contamination by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2009.
The Prathers’ attorney, Richard Djokic, could not be reached for comment for this story on Thursday.