Wyoming County residents just across the Dallas Township border have a noisy, smelly neighbor they fear is affecting their health and lowering their property values — but with the natural gas boom going on just a few miles to the north, this neighbor isn’t likely to move away any time soon.
Attorney Todd O’Malley, who represents 20 families who live near the Chapin natural gas dehydration station on state Route 309 in Monroe Township and are suing the facility’s owner, gave an update on the status of the lawsuit at a meeting of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition held Wednesday at the Daddow-Isaacs American Legion post.
PVR Partners LP built the station as part of a system to collect natural gas from wells in Susquehanna County and dehydrate it before piping it to a connection with the Transco interstate pipeline in Dallas Township. There have been several incidents at the facility, including on Sept. 30 and Nov. 23, 2012, June 20, 2013, and in February, March and April this year, involving loud noises, odors, emissions and more.
PVR Partners recently merged with Regency Partners LP, which now owns the station. O’Malley said that will not affect the suit.
“When the people bought it, they bought the lawsuit with the plant,” he said.
Videographer Scott Cannon, a Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition member, gave a video presentation on the Chapin facility that included interviews with nearby residents. In the video, the station’s neighbors talked of having to put up with loud noises, gas emissions, odors and vibrations, as well as expressing concerns about their health from potentially breathing in toxins and about property devaluation.
The 60-count complaint against PVR, filed June 6, 2013, focuses on the health and property issues, O’Malley said. The private suit alleges the facility is a nuisance that should never have been built.
“I can tell you that it’s only getting worse and worse and worse for these families,” O’Malley said.
Although assured at a zoning hearing that there would be no vibrations — “a bald-faced lie,” O’Malley said — the residents can demonstrate how their windows and bathroom medicine cabinets shake. The infrasound vibrations could have significant health effects, he said.
The defendant filed preliminary objections to the complaint, and the families won on each count, he said. The case is in the discovery phase, and there are “hundreds of questions” several but not all of the residents have answered, he said.
O’Malley plans to get experts lined up to testify and develop questions of his own for the company to answer. He said his paralegal Melissa Theis is researching the company’s violations with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
O’Malley said he wishes he could do more for the families. Some of them want out of their homes — “but if they can’t sell, where are they going to go?”