Andrea R., Mom of Two, Boulder County


Meet Andrea R., Mother of 2, living in Boulder County:

When I first moved to Erie I had no idea that I was moving to the middle of an oil field.  I saw the condensate tanks and I really had no idea that they were related to oil and gas development. That is until I received an email from my neighbor about fracking site about 600 yards from my children’s’ school.  I had not previously heard of hydraulic fracturing so I looked into it.  What I found disturbed me; fresh water permanently taken from the Earths hydrologic cycle, laced with toxic, cancer causing chemicals; being injected into the ground.  Not to mention the toxic wastewater that is produced and the pollution inducing emissions that leak from the tanks and pipes.  I was appalled that this type of heavy industrial activity would be occurring a mere few hundred feet from people’s homes, schools and parks.

The Oil and Gas Industry are a major contributing factor to the diminished air quality along the Front Range.  They are responsible for 30% of all methane emissions and in turn are responsible for the increase of lung damaging ozone along the Front Range.  The industry needs to be held accountable for polluting our air and they need to institute some common sense measures to cut down on smog inducing pollution.

~ Andrea R.

Wendy, Mom of Four, Boulder County

Girls Flying Kite

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.

~ Wendy

April B., Mom of Three, Boulder County

Holding Hands

Meet April B., Mother of 3, living in Boulder County:

I am a mom to three boys. I have lived surrounded by wells for 10 years and within a few hundred yards of what appear to have been open pits for 6. We were never informed of the pits, or of the chemicals in use, dangers of operations, and ongoing possible health implications of the surrounding operations. In our first home, we felt tremors and small earthquakes, in our current home we have many more issues.

We currently live near 5 wellheads, a BTEX burner, 2 separators and 2 Condensate tanks. Beyond this we are surrounded by 34 wells within a ½ mile radius. We have been told to evacuate our home by CDPHE from a possible H2S release. Only to have an investigation team on site days later, when obviously no issues would be found. We have called the fire department multiples times from toxic gasses seeping into our home. Only to have them not equipped with adequate detection monitors for the chemicals of concern. I don’t bother calling them anymore because they can’t help me.

At night, I can look out my son’s window and see the flames inside the closest BTEX burner. Loud sounds and burning noises are a common occurrence. Vapors rise from the numerous burners surrounding our home, day and night.

We have been sick. I have an unexplained lesion in my spinal cord. I had to deal with a spinal tap, regular MRIs and ongoing testing. After we found the lesion, I do not remember 6 months of my life. A precious time when my second baby was less than a year old. In addition, our family deals with many more health issues, not limited to the following: Headaches, Severe Migraines, Children with gushing bloody noses, Confusion, Memory loss, Hyper tension, Hair loss, Concentration problems, Severely unexplainable autoimmune disorders and allergies for multiple family members, Pains and weakness in our bodies, Serious GI issues (to the extent of a child needing a colonoscopy, and multiple family members needing endoscopies. All with no findings), Chronic painful reflux for everyone, Complete body itching night and day for months with no explanation and no treatment available, Periods of dizziness to the point of not being able to walk or climb stairs in both children and adults, My son also developed severe asthma shortly after the BTEX burner was put online next to our house, My husband redeveloped his childhood asthma at the same time and I developed new asthma symptoms, Chronic sinusitis for one child( which has led to antibiotic resistance and CT scans), Sickness, lethargy and abdominal pain that lasted for months after the most recent well was completed by our home, with clear CT scans, blood work and stool samplings.

Only narcotics could help until the pain went away. Just when we thought we had seen the worst. My son recently developed a rare neurological disorder. His body began to lose control with ticks and twitches. He has torn all the muscles in his neck and cut his hands from repeatedly gripping so hard. With his hands wrapped, writing at school has become a challenge. And playing guitar, his favorite way to self-calm is not always an option. It is unbearable to watch as a parent, let alone live with as a child.

He is the bravest person I know. He submitted a testimony to the EPA in 2011, about his concerns regarding the wells. About how he could no longer play in his tree-fort next to the nearby condensate tanks. In addition, a BTEX burner now stands where there used to be a huge beautiful Cottonwood tree and the owls are gone. Though this is right next to our home, I am warned to not walk too close without fire retardant clothing on. But every time I ask, I am told we are safe!

Recently, I requested the Town of Erie and EnCana place a VRU on the site by my home. This request was declined because:

1. It was too expensive

2. And because the time of highest production had supposedly ended and the VRU would not help

However, according the Production Logs on the COGCC website, for “Vessels Minerals”, production has certainly not subsided. In fact, in some instances it appears to have remained steady or increased.

Everything I know, I have been forced to learn on my own. The lack of information and transparency the Industry is entitled to is unacceptable.

~ April B.