In a recent article written by San Antonio Express-News reporter Jennifer Hiller, she poses the question, Is the Eagle Ford oil boom making people sick?
The question remains, is it making people sick? Some might be tempted to answer this question with a “no”, or a “maybe”, but my time spent with residents like Mr. and Mrs. Lara leaves no doubt in my mind and in the minds of many other Karnes County residents. Families, like the Lara’s, are the first to suffer from the impacts from the industry and struggle to find proof for their ailments. The first time I looked through Earthwork’s FLIR camera I couldn’t believe my eyes. The proof, to me, was right there in that camera lens and the proof for many residents is in the decline of their health.
My first time to the Eagle Ford Shale was in June 2015, shortly after the blowout that affected the Lara’s and many others. My early memories of visiting Karnes County consisted of foul odors, roads overrun by large company trucks, and bright skies littered with drilling rigs and flares. At the time, I was recruiting residents for my research on health risks associated to air quality impacted by the oil and gas activities. It didn’t take long for me to understand, first-hand, what many of the residents were struggling to find the words to describe. Their ailments ranged from scratchy throats, to brain fog, to irregular heartbeats and incessant headaches.
Additionally, as highlighted in the piece by Hiller, impacts are not only on health but also on lifestyle.
“This is who I am right now,” Lara said, his voice rough as the sound of boots on gravel. “It was like they took everything away from me.”
Home for some is a sacred place you turn to for safety; home for the Lara’s has been destroyed and become a place they fear to live in. These have become the costs that many who live near oil and gas facilities face. For me, the answer is an affirmative yes, the Eagle Ford oil and gas boom is making people very sick. The next questions I pose is just how sick is it making them?