As fossil fuel resources have dwindled, efforts have increased to find new avenues. The Marcellus Shale, an extensive rock formation, has been found to be a source of natural gas embedded deep inside underground fissures. It runs through a number of states, including Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The area has been of great interest to oil and gas companies. They use hydraulic fracturing to explore for and extract gas from the rock. The process involves drilling wells deep into the rock, and injecting high volumes of pressurized and chemically treated water to force open fissures to get to the gas deposits.
Concerns over hydraulic fracturing have been growing. Hydraulic fracturing has been found to cause extensive environmental damage and water contamination. Contamination occurs through three pathways: spills, discharge of waste into rivers and streams, and the underground migration of chemicals and methane gas into drinking water wells.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) is an interstate commission overseeing aspects of protection of the water quality of the Delaware River and its tributaries. Recently, the DRBC voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in the Delaware River Basin entirely. This vote will result in protections against dangerous hydraulic fracturing activities and has been touted as a major win by environmental advocates. The decision not only bans hydraulic fracturing wells from being drilled, it also bans taking of water from the area and bans dumping waste products.
People who have gotten ill from exposure to toxic materials can seek compensation through a toxic tort action. This is a legal claim to recover from harm from the exposure to a dangerous substance, such as a drug, pesticide, or chemical. When large numbers of people are affected, they can join together in a class action suit.
The challenge in toxic tort claims is proving causation. Illnesses caused by exposure to toxins do not generally manifest right away. The delay in showing symptoms can make it challenging to prove both the exposure and that the exposure that caused the illness. Other challenges include the potential for intervening factors. If other causes of the illness are possible, it can be difficult to prove that the specific toxin was the main cause of the illness. In addition, it can be difficult to identify the defendants in a case, particularly if the exposure was not recent. For example, a particular drug may be made by more than one manufacturer, which may change over time.
Despite these challenges, it is possible to bring and win toxic tort claims. Scientific developments are evolving and continue to establish linkages between chemicals and diseases. A recent example of a successful toxic tort claim involved individuals being exposed to toxins by a popular weed killer. A number of people were found to have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after using the product. In three recent jury trials, the manufacturer was found to have failed to warn users of the dangers of using the product, and the plaintiffs were awarded significant financial compensation.
If one needs legal counsel about a toxic tort case, they should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. These cases are hard to prove, but a lawyer can fight on behalf of their client.
The ban on hydraulic fracturing is a great moment for environmental advocates. If you believe you are sick from water contamination, a Wilmington toxic tort lawyer at Jacobs & Crumplar, P.A. can help you. Call us at 302-656-5445 or complete an online form for a free consultation today. Located in Wilmington and Millsboro, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, New Castle County, and Sussex County.