This is how it starts.
It always starts with the fracking industry making a mess and harming people. Those people contact me. I received a letter from the Eagle Ford Shale (Karnes City) and it told of rashes, nosebleeds and misery.
When people contact me, I teach them how to get evidence of harm. Unfortunately it can take a while.
Eventually the media shows up and starts working on a story.
Because I have Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project backing me, I can get other people involved, scientists and people with IR video cameras. Earthworks covered expenses and paid for some SUMMA canisters but we can’t do that without your help.
We met with the reporter and finally his story is published.
Fire in the Sky: The sour side of life in South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale
By Michael Barajas
Published: March 27, 2013
“I am right in the middle of this stuff,” he told a Marathon worker. “I get three or four migraines a day now. … I never had migraines before in my life.” The headaches grew so persistent in recent months, Mike told the worker, that he shelled out $2,000 for a CT scan. About a year ago, to their surprise, the Cernys became a family of asthmatics, regularly sucking down albuterol inhalers just to breathe. Myra and Mike began to spot mysterious rashes on their arms and legs. Their teenage son suffered unexplained, gushing nosebleeds.
Now it’s started and more people will contact me with their stories. People can’t live in this kind of mess.
“It’s disconcerting to say the least,” said Wilma Subra, a Louisiana-based environmental scientist and MacArthur Genius Grant recipient who reviewed the TCEQ records.
Subra was troubled that when Marathon finally reported the problems — at TCEQ’s prodding — the company only did so as two isolated 12-hour events. “It’s hard to believe this was only happening the two days that TCEQ just happened to go out and investigate,” Subra said.
“For some of these compounds, it’s a huge quantity that got reported,” Subra insisted. For the August incident, benzene was at levels you’d expect to find near an oil refinery, she said.
“When, say, an oil refinery releases more than 10 pounds of benzene within that period, it’s a big deal,” Subra said. “Here we had 42 pounds of benzene released. It’s enormous.”
Prolonged exposure to benzene, Subra says, is known to cause leukemia and blood cell damage. In addition, TCEQ reports from the facility showed elevated levels of toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene, compounds that may cause liver and kidney damage over long exposure periods, Subra says. In the short-term, “you’d expect to see nose, throat, eye and skin irritation,” Subra said.
Marathon should have bought the family’s home and let them move to safety. It would have been the smart and kind thing to do. But, that’s not how this industry works.
Now the gate is open. It won’t stop because I know there are others.
UPDATE: Also see “What makes an entire family all of a sudden need asthma medications?”