Monday, May 23, 2011

North Texans describe fracking odors: "burned tires, rotten eggs, sweet anti-freeze and wet cat liter"

Tim & Christine Ruggiero will be at the Fracking Town Hall in Laredo, June 10th

From The Houston Chronicle

Don’t mention myths to Sharon Wilson. As organizer for the Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, she spends much of her time investigating and highlighting the concerns raised by Gant and others who live, work and send their kids to school near the ubiquitous drilling rigs, production wells and compression stations that have cropped up in recent years.

She recently led a reporter on a tour, heading southwest from Denton on U.S. 377, past numerous sites on both sides of the highway. She said she is skeptical that the Texas Legislature can draft meaningful rules or that regulators can enforce them.

“People will think they’re protected,” she said of the disclosure bill, “but they’re really not protected.”
Before stopping to see Gant, Wilson swung by Michael and Susan Knoll’s elegant home in a nearby subdivision that Michael Knoll discovered while training for a bicycle race. He said he has sunk $1.2 million into the two-acre property over the last four and a half years, building a house, landscaping it and putting in an irrigation system for a small vineyard he and his wife had wanted to plant.

They gave up on the vineyard after their well-water started foaming and their dog developed a rare form of cancer they were told is typically caused in humans by radiation exposure. The family became aware of the wells that surround them in 2009, the Knolls said, the year before the dog got sick. Sometimes they’d wake up at night coughing; visitors said they felt funny, too.

One day that summer, what Susan Knoll described as a flowing river of drilling mud spilled onto their property from a nearby rig and a work crew hustled in with sandbags to keep the muck at bay.
“That’s when we really started noticing things,” said Michael Knoll.

• • •

In the unincorporated community of Allison in adjacent Wise County, Tim and Christine Ruggiero shared similar stories, and videos, documenting the noise, the troubling results of private water testing, and visits from Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigators with infrared cameras.

At each stop on Wilson’s tour, talk inevitably turned to the odors, often redolent of petroleum products but running an unpleasant gamut from burned tires to rotten eggs, vomit, sweet antifreeze and wet cat litter. Christine Ruggiero said it’s often kind of “propaney” and leaves her with a headache. Whether the chemicals producing these odors and possibly fouling the water wells are making people or their animals sick is another matter.

The industry says no. But for these families, it remains an open debate.

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