Meet Wendy, Mother of 4, living in Boulder County:
I moved to Erie from Virginia almost three years ago. Our family of six was excited to move into a great community full of young families. Soon after moving to Erie, however, our entire family started feeling unhealthy. Mostly it was stomach problems with the children. I took the kids to the pediatrician quite a lot that first year and just chalked it up to new viruses that we had not been exposed to on the east coast. Eventually, my 4-year old daughter’s stomach pains were so bad that I was referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children’s Hospital. The physician ran multiple tests that resulted in no answers. We tried several elimination diets, however nothing seemed to improve.
I went to a friend’s Christmas party in the neighborhood and I noticed that all the women who lived on her block were talking about their children’s stomach problems; whether it was a severe food allergy or intolerance or other stomach problems. I asked the question to all the moms: “Why are all of these children suffering from similar symptoms?”. Everyone shrugged their shoulders except for one mom, who replied “the only thing I can think of is they drilled for oil and gas right across from our homes when all of us were either pregnant or had infants.”
The health problems continued. One of her sons began coming home from Red Hawk Elementary with stomach pain, prompting conversations with the school nurse.
“She said she was new to that school,” Leonard said. “She said that she had never worked at an elementary school where so many children come to the nurse’s office with (gastrointestinal) complaints.”
I knew that they were going to be drilling eight new wells next to our elementary school in the next few months, so I started to look into it. I couldn’t believe what I was reading as far as the potential risks to our air, water and health when it came to oil and gas development. I felt like our government had failed us when it came to regulating this industry. Not only that, I knew that once they drilled the eight new wells next to the school, I would have twenty-one producing wells within a half-mile of my front door. My husband and I decided we weren’t willing to take any risks with our own health, but especially the health of our children. We moved out of Erie before they drilled the new wells. Within a week of moving out of Erie, the children’s symptoms improved. We cannot say with one hundred percent certainty that our family’s illnesses were related to oil and gas, but we can say that there absolutely needs to be a health impact study done to critically evaluate how all aspects of oil and gas production our impacting our environment and our health.