Several landowners along the Nexus pipeline have sued the pipeline’s owner and its construction contractor, saying the companies broke agreements to protect and restore properties affected by the project.
Michael Thompson, the Jackson Township attorney representing the landowners, has filed a dozen lawsuits in Stark, Summit, Wayne and Columbiana counties in the last couple of weeks against Nexus Gas Transmission and Michels Corp.
Nexus is a $2.1 billion pipeline backed by Detroit-based DTE Energy and Enbridge, a Canadian company. Michels Corp. is a construction firm in Wisconsin.
The 36-inch diameter pipeline can carry up to 1.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Utica and Marcellus shales to users in Ohio, Michigan and Canada.
Thompson said he anticipated filing more lawsuits in the coming weeks, and Tuesday he added Michels to a lawsuit filed against Nexus in July.
Thompson said the goals of the lawsuits are twofold: “One, to hold [Nexus and Michels] accountable for specific damages that they’ve caused, and, two, so that in the future, a message is given to them that they can’t just do what they want and trample on the rights of the property owners."
Nexus spokesman Adam Parker said in an email that the company "doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits, but project representatives have been communicating with landowners for four years.
“Great effort has been taken to address individual landowner concerns and minimize disruption during the construction process,” Parker wrote.
A message seeking comment was left with Michels.
The lawsuits seek damages in excess of $25,000, as well as attorney fees, from Nexus and Michels.
The lawsuits allege Nexus and Michels:
• Pumped thousands of gallons of water and silt onto farms and residential properties without permission from the owners, in one case damaging a pond in Green.
• Destroyed topsoil and crops on farms in Stark and Columbiana counties.
• Failed to repair damaged drain tiles and properly reclaim land.
• Caused farmers to lose crops and prevented some landowners from using their properties.
• Failed to control erosion, in one case leading to a 200-foot-long ditch on a Washington Township farm that was as deep as 3 feet.
• Diverted surface water onto properties near the pipeline, including several residences near Doylestown in Wayne County and a property in New Franklin in Summit County.
“Those people never got a penny out of the pipeline right-of-way and they’ve had to live with the damage, and the pipeline isn’t even on their property,” Thompson said of his Doylestown and New Franklin clients.
Central Land Consulting has monitored pipeline work on the properties named in the lawsuits.
Donald and Patricia Day of Green are among the landowners who have filed a lawsuit alleging the pipeline project damaged their property.
In their suit, filed late last month in Summit County Common Pleas Court, the couple say their pond and wetlands were harmed and their driveway was blocked by excessive water runoff during the pipeline construction.
"We've lived here 23 years. We built this property, we dug this lake and everything was beautiful," Donald Day told the Beacon Journal in July. "They've come in here and put dirty water in my lake. They've got dirty water running in the back of my property. ... Anything you tell them, they just say, 'Sue us.' "
Restoration on hold
Nexus was ”committed to safe and environmentally responsible practices,” including the use of inspectors, to “protect topsoil and to minimize erosion and sedimentation during and after construction,” Parker wrote.
Nexus runs 255 miles from Hanoverton in Columbiana County to Michigan, but restoration work along the route has paused for the winter. Inspectors will continue to monitor the right-of-way and restoration will resume next year when soil conditions improve, Parker wrote.
The Beacon Journal contributed to this report.