A Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta has decided that Alberta Environment can legally be sued for instances of lax investigation and remediation of groundwater contamination connected with hydraulic fracturing.

Rosebud, Alberta native Jessica Ernst filed a $33-million lawsuit seven years ago after her well water became so contaminated it could be lit on fire.

“This is a big victory for water and for all Albertans,” said the plaintiff. “The decision means that landowners can stand up and hold governments and regulators to account if they fail in their duty to properly investigate environmental contamination.”

According to a release from Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors, Alberta Environment argued that it didn’t owe a “private duty of care” to individual landowners during its investigation of groundwater contamination.

In coming to his decision, Chief Justice Wittmann went so far as to order the government to pay triple the plaintiff’s legal costs after her claim was improperly attacked.

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