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Residents file suit, claim shared well ruined by drilling




A natural gas drilling company has been sued for allegedly destroying a water well shared among six Little Cowan residents.

A lawsuit filed recently in Letcher Circuit Court charges that Kinzer Drilling Company of Floyd County “was grossly negligent, reckless, and wanton when they drilled” a gas well near a “riparian” well shared by plaintiffs Ernie Ison, Marcella Diane Ison, Robert Ison, Carla Smith, David Fisher and Janice Kae Fisher.

The six have asked Letcher Circuit Judge Sam Wright to issue an order requiring Kinzer Drilling to “grout or cement their gas well from bottom to top to stop the flow of natural gas” into the water supply.

The suit says gas from Kinzer’s well has polluted the “water well to the point that you can hear (gas) hissing and bubbling in the water and at the bottom of the well.”

“Kinzer failed to take adequate safeguards and preventative measures in order to prevent natural gas and other noxious substances from migrating from their gas well into the plaintiffs’ water well,” says the complaint filed on behalf of the six by Hindman attorney Adam Collins. “Kinzer should have known of the plaintiffs’ water well being in near proximity to the proposed location of their gas well. (Kinzer) took no steps to safeguard the water well from damage.”

In addition to injunctive relief ordering Kinzer to repair the water well, the plaintiffs also seek compensatory and punitive damages from the company. The six also request a trial by jury.

Kinzer Drilling, based in the town of Allen, had not answered the lawsuit as of Tuesday afternoon. The company drew the ire of Little Cowan residents in February, including Letcher Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison G. Banks II, when mud tracked from its drill site left KY 2035 looking like a dirt road.

The incident was one of several related to natural exploration here that led to an ongoing investigation into industry practices by the Letcher County Grand Jury.

Little Cowan, located at the base of Pine Mountain near Whitesburg, had long been considered one of the county’s most scenic communities before natural gas drillers began exploring there last summer.

“I call it the devastation of Little Cowan,” property owner Helen Roberts said of Kinzer’s operations in February.


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