SALEM, Ohio — Several Ohio landowners along the recently installed Nexus natural gas pipeline have sued the company and its installer in county courts, over allegations the company breached its contract and damaged the soil and crops.
About 13 lawsuits have been filed in the courts of common pleas in Columbiana, Stark, Summit and Wayne counties, on behalf of the landowners by Canton-area attorney Michael Thompson.
The lawsuits argue that Nexus, and its contractor, Michels Corp., of Wisconsin, did not correctly restore the layers of soil, resulting in diminished topsoil, and that the companies violated the landowner lease agreement by improperly discharging and draining excess water onto lands outside of the leased rights of way.
Thompson said the companies accessed and damaged property as much as 400 to 600 feet wider what the right-of-way allowed, causing erosion, unnatural silt placement, and ditches that are three feet deep or more.
“They have contaminated the soil and not protected the topsoil when they were digging down in their work area,” Thompson said.
Nate Laps, president of Canton-based Central Land Consulting, said the lawsuits could total more than $20 million in damages. He said he believes that Nexus did not want the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to know about the issues and the lawsuits, until after the pipeline was approved for operation.
“It’s just been a nightmare from the beginning,” Laps said, adding that Nexus has been unreceptive to landowner concerns.
Adam Parker, a Nexus spokesperson, said the company typically does not comment on pending litigation. However, he said the company is on track to do what it promised, and that restoration efforts were slowed by an unusually wet fall.
“The restoration is ongoing and it was intended to be ongoing,” he said.
In a statement by Nexus, the company says “final restoration of the NEXUS ROW remains ongoing in a number of locations, and the right of way will continue to be monitored by environmental inspectors over the winter and spring months. Crews will return to complete restoration activities along the route in early 2019 when wet soil conditions improve and allow the work to be conducted.”
Thompson said damage has already been done, and that he doubts the company plans a full restoration of the soil, because of the way it has already been re-packed, with clay toward the top, where there should be topsoil.
Paul Wallace, a Homeworth-area farmer, said his topsoil was not put back correctly, and he estimates he’s lost as much as 4-5 inches of topsoil. He’s also upset that newly installed tiles are already plugged with silt — tiles that he installed and redirected in anticipation of the gas pipeline project.
The tiles were installed to divert existing tiles away from the pipeline, but he said due to Nexus’ negligence, those tiles are already damaged.
Although Nexus has made some corrective efforts, Wallace said they’ve not been made to his and the other landowners’ satisfaction.
“Every time they fix something, it just seems like they make it worse,” he said.
More to come
Additional lawsuits will likely be filed, according to Thompson, who said the law requires pipeline companies to be given 45 days of notice before filing with the court. If corrective actions aren’t taken within those 45 days, he said more suits will be filed.
Parker said Nexus took the proper precautions for extreme weather, but said nevertheless, this was a very wet fall and some of the restoration efforts had to cease for the winter, waiting for spring. Construction of the line was approved by FERC in October 2017, and the line was placed in service early this fall.
According to Parker, Nexus is committed to doing the project right, and asks concerned landowners to call the construction hotline at 844-589-3655.
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