Health Concerns From Fracking Prompts Texas Mayor to Leave Town

Hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), the process of pumping a toxic cocktail of chemicals and water underground to release natural gas, has gained a lot of attention in the East in the last year with actor Mark Ruffalo speaking out against it and bands of residents in New York and Pennsylvania demanding an end to the practice. This week we ran an interview with the director of Oscar-nominated Gasland, a film which helped to put the issue on the map for most people.

Despite industry claims that fracking is totally safe, people who live in gaslands feel a lot differently -- even the mayor of one town. Calvin Tillman has been at the helm of Dish, Texas (population 200, gas wells 60) since 2007. He's worked hard to regulate gas drilling in the area, but it doesn't seem to be enough. Concerned for the health of his family, Tillman decided he had to move -- a pretty tough decision when you're the one running the town.

Joanna Zelman writes for the Huffington Post:

According to the Associated Press, residents of Dish have complained of nosebleeds, pain, and poor circulation since the first compressor station was built in their town in 2005, though there is no hard proof linking the health problems to the natural gas drilling. The air over the Barnett Shale near Dish was found to contain high levels of the toxic chemical benzene, shown to cause cancer. The town's mayor is leaving it all behind.

Last Memorial Day was the final straw. Tillman's 5-year-old son awoke in the middle of the night with a severe nosebleed. As Tillman describes to HuffPost, "He had blood all over his hands, blood on the walls -- our house looked somewhat like a murder scene." In the weeks prior, both of Tillman's sons had experienced severe nosebleeds. At the same time, the town was surrounded by a strong odor from their natural gas facilities.

While Mayor Tillman acknowledges there could be other explanations, he feels, "It's one thing if I'm exposing myself to something... but with our children, it's just a completely different story. We just couldn't take the chance after that." Around the country, similar reports of nosebleeds can be found among residents living near hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," sites, though the energy companies insist that their methods are safe.

How much longer will gas companies stand by the claims that what they're doing is completely safe?

AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at February 25, 2011, 11:29am

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