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Family Sues Over Drilling Fluid Spill Near Home in Glencoe

Photo provided Glencoe residents Charles and Kacey Gantzer allege contractors working for Summit Midstream Partners disrupted life at their home along Belmont County Road 5 for more than a month to mitigate a spill of drilling fluid into the nearby stream.

GLENCOE — Scarcely more than 1-month-old on Oct. 19, tiny Amelia Gantzer couldn’t have been ready for pipeline contractors to surround her home with noisy trucks, machines and hoses for about a month to clean up a drilling fluid spill.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokesman James Lee said officials cited Texas-based Summit Midstream Partners for an unauthorized release of bentonite clay into the stream along Belmont County Road 5 on Oct. 19. Charles and Kacey Gantzer, Amelia’s parents, live in a home along this stream near the community of Glencoe, along with their other daughter, 18-month-old Adaline.

“At times, the noise was so loud, it was difficult to hear my 2-month-old baby crying in the next room,” Kacey Gantzer said regarding the company’s cleanup efforts.

“No one should ever feel like they are trapped in their own home.”

The stream in question, commonly known as Williams Creek, flows toward Glencoe, which is south of St. Clairsville and west of Bellaire. It eventually empties into McMahon Creek, which leads to the Ohio River. Christian Turak said the family’s previously serene atmosphere in the relatively isolated setting gave way to “absolute chaos” Oct. 19.

“The amount of noise and activity surrounding the Gantzers’ home was incredible–you’d have to see it to believe it. These activities would persist for 10 hours a day and recently up to 24 hours per day,” Turak said. “To say that these were not ideal living conditions for the Gantzers and their two young children, is certainly an understatement.”

According to the document Lee provided, the Ohio EPA cited Summit Midstream for the unauthorized release of drilling fluid into the stream. The release occurred, regulators maintain, because the company is drilling horizontally to build a natural gas pipeline under the road and creek.

“The drilling fluids, which included bentonite and cuttings from the natural formation, coated the stream with a layer of mud and impacted water quality,” the notice states.

“(Bentonite) does not belong in a stream or a wetland. A large release could have an impact on animals and plants in the wetland,” Lee said.

The order required Summit to find containment points along the stream to prevent the spill from spreading, in addition to ultimately removing the material. Turak asserts that during this activity, Summit contractors operated multiple large trucks, pumps, generators and other equipment within 50 feet of the Gantzer home — all without even communicating with the family, much less obtaining permission.

“Oftentimes, oil and gas companies take liberties and operate without regard for the rights of property owners,” Turak said. “These companies wield extraordinary power and have far greater resources than landowners do. These situations can be very intimidating to residents.”

Turak said his clients are suing Summit for damaging the property, trespassing on the property and creating a nuisance. He said did not indicate if the family is seeking a particular dollar amount from the suit.

“We are so thankful that someone cared enough to listen,” Kacey Gantzer added.

Summit attorneys Kevin West and Melanie Norris did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Company spokesman Jonathan Morgan declined to comment, except to emphasize the cleanup work is now complete.

According to Summit’s website, the firm works in Ohio, West Virginia, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and North Dakota. In the natural gas industry, “midstream” broadly refers to activities associated with moving the material, which can include pipelines, processing plants and compressor stations.

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