Last August, Cody Murray and his father, Jim, went to investigate a pump house on Cody’s Perrin, North Texas, property when they saw water spraying from it. Built-up methane gas caused the water well to explode, sending flames 30 feet in both directions, catching Murray’s t-shirt to catch on fire and causing serious burns to his father, wife, and four-year-old daughter.

In August 2015, Murray, 38, filed suit in Dallas County Court against EOG Resources, Fairway Resources LLC and three Fairway subsidiaries. The lawsuit alleges that the well exploded because it was contaminated from a nearby fracking operation.

According to the lawsuit, Murray was severely burned over his arms, upper back, neck, forehead and nose, and suffered “significant neurological damage.” The explosion left him permanently disfigured and disabled. [1]

“At the flip of the switch, Cody heard a ‘whooshing’ sound, which he instantly recognized from his work in the oil and gas industry, and instinctively picked his father up and physically threw him back and away from the entryway to the pump house,” the complaint states.

“In that instant, a giant fireball erupted from the pump house, burning Cody and Jim, who were at the entrance to the pump house, as well as [Cody’s wife] Ashley and [daughter] A.M., who were approximately 20 feet away.”

The lawsuit – which is seeking actual and punitive damages for negligence, trespass, nuisance, lost wages, physical impairment, pain and suffering, continuing medical care, disfigurement, and loss of consortium – states:

“This is a tragic case arising from the flash explosion of a private water well that had been contaminated with methane as a result of the defendants’ drilling and extraction activities.

…Rigorous scientific testing, including isotope testing, has conclusively demonstrated that the high-level methane contamination of the Murrays’ water well resulted from natural gas drilling and extraction activities.

…The high levels of methane in the Murrays’ well were not ‘naturally occurring.”

The Murrays’ case is a potentially landmark one, but it won’t be easy for the family to definitively prove that the explosion was caused by methane two gas wells situated about 1,000 feet northeast of their well.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting large amounts of water and chemicals into Shale rock formations in order to free the natural gas and oil trapped within it. The chemicals can seep into the ground and contaminate the water, and dissipate into the air, contaminating the environment. It has also been linked to a sharp increase in earthquakes in several U.S. cities, most notably Oklahoma.

Fracking accidents are not at all uncommon, sadly. Last November, a ruptured pipeline at a Colorado fracking site left one Halliburton employee dead and two seriously injured. The accident happened when workers were trying to warm a frozen pipe at a site near Fort Lupton, just 30 miles north of Denver, when it burst. [2]

In May, residents in Karne County, Texas, were driven from their homes when a fracking well blew its top and spewed a mixture of liquid petroleum products high into the air. Some locals complained of headaches, sore throats and other ailments following the accident. Encana, the company that owned the fracking site, monitored the air for benzene, toluene and xylene. [3]

Sources:

[1] RawStory

[2] Los Angeles Times

[3] Inside Climate News


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.