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Washington County family takes 2 corporations to court over fracking health concerns

Washington County family takes 2 major corporations to court over fracking health concerns
Washington County family takes 2 major corporations to court over fracking health concerns 02:49

WASHINGTON, Pa. (KDKA) -- A Washington County family has taken two major corporations to court, claiming that fracking contaminated their wells and jeopardized their health.

It's been a matter of debate: can fracking contaminate the groundwater and cause serious health impacts? The case in Washington aims to prove it can and does. 

Bryan Latkanich and his son Ryan arrived at court Tuesday morning flanked by supporters from the environmental community aiming at last to prove that fracking at their property had contaminated their wells, undermined their home and resulted in serious health impacts, including skin rashes Ryan says he suffered after bathing. 

"I've had blisters from water, my skin rashing up," Ryan said.

"It's been a nightmare," Bryan said.

In their sights are two large corporations -- Chevron and its subsidiary Chevron USA, which initially drilled their property, and the Pittsburgh-based EQT Corporation, which purchased the Chevron leases two years ago. 

Tuesday at an initial hearing, their attorney, Kathy Condo, argued again that hydraulic fracturing is not inherently dangerous and that an investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection found no elevated chemicals and no linkage between the fracking and the Latkanich's health problems. 

The complaint stems back to 2011 and 2012 and since then a Pennsylvania grand jury found that DEP had failed to adequately protect citizens. The family's attorney cites new evidence about radioactivity and PFAS -- so-called forever chemicals in the frack water, which she says spilled from retainer ponds into their wells and their home.

"There's no debate about the harm that fracking causes. We've proven that. It's time for the industry to tell the truth and it's time for this administration to tell the truth," said attorney Lisa Johnson. 

The Latkanich family hopes theirs is a test case.

"Hopefully that we can become whole and get on with life again and close this chapter, and also we can protect the environment and other people going through this," Bryan said. 

This case won't be going before a jury anytime soon and is at least a year away. But when it does, a lot of eyes will be focused here and the outcome could be far-reaching. 

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