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For Texas family, a fracking mess


Published: Thu, April 5, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

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Ranjana Bhandari, left, and Kaushik De have lived off Division Street in Arlington, Texas, for 19 years. It was a nice place, they said. Now they fear for their family’s health because of the numerous gas wells.

RELATED: Tale of 2 families illustrates the pros and cons of drilling

FROM PENN. TO OHIO TO TEXAS, THE FRACKING FRONTIER

The News Outlet and The Vindicator recently visited Fort Worth, Texas, to see how residents, public officials and energy companies lived through the Barnett Shale gas boom and to get a glimpse of what may come in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays.

By CHRIS COTELESSE

The NewsOutlet.org

ARLINGTON, TEXAS

The process of horizontal fracking is new to Ohio, but on Division Street in Arlington, Texas, it’s divided a community for years.

A doughnut shop, a number of car dealerships and a retirement home make the street look like any other found in the average American city. But squeezed between businesses are seven natural-gas wells that have drawn mixed reactions from residents.

Sound-barrier fencing that rises more than 30 feet into the air surrounds the wells. The soundproof batting on the fences is a dingy tan color, and, at some sites, pipes jut into shallow ponds filled with blue-green water that smells like an over-chlorinated swimming pool.

“They’re ugly. They just look horrible,” Ranjana Bhandari said.

She and her husband, Kaushik De, have lived in their neighborhood off Division Street for 19 years. They now spend much of their free time researching and organizing against fracking.

Right next door and across the street from them in their manicured, upper-middle-class neighborhood, their neighbors have accepted the wells and hope to profit from them.

The couple’s biggest concern is for the health of their 12-year-old son. They believe the claims that wells have contaminated water and polluted air.

“I deal with radioactive materials,” said De, a particle physicist with the University of Texas at Arlington. “I’m dumbfounded when people treat radioactivity so casually.”

The family is one of the remaining holdouts in a battle to rid the area of these wells. Dozens of their neighbors already have signed lease agreements with Chesapeake Energy LLC., the nation’s second-largest energy-exploration company, and the company currently dominating gas exploration in Northeast Ohio.

In the summer of 2008, representatives from Chesapeake hosted a Texas-style barbecue at the local high school. They cooked ribs and handed out checks for those willing to lease minerals beneath their houses.

Sharon and Richard Langlotz signed up immediately at the first offer of $7,000 an acre plus royalties. They received $1,750 for their one-quarter-acre parcel and have received only one royalty check for $200 in the two years the well has been operating.

Richard said he wishes he would have held out for more money, but he and his wife are glad for the economic boost the drilling has brought.

“It’s inevitable,” Sharon said. “You have to have production, and you have to have U.S. production.”

Sharon, who works as an accountant in the gas industry, said companies are mostly responsible and committed to safety.

Still, they’ve heard stories of backyards sinking and water being set on fire from natural gas in the water supply. They both care about their land, which sits on the bank of a tree-lined canal they sometimes canoe.

Steve Dixon attended that same barbecue.

“People were just rushing to sign. Just to sign a paper, get the check and go home. All they could see was dollar signs,” he said.

He was worried about the noise of the drilling rigs and the aesthetic impact on the community but could hold out only for so long.

“At a point, it became apparent that either we sign and got something, or we didn’t sign and they were going to do it anyway,” Dixon said.

The well that Bhandari and De fought to prevent now sits at the edge of their property. She wipes a tear thinking about the possibility of moving out of the only house her son has ever known.

“We don’t want to move, but we can’t risk what it could do to our son,” she said.

She and her husband have convinced themselves that they’ll never get rid of the well, but they will exhaust every avenue.

They’re outnumbered in the fight. Bhandari and De had more support in the beginning, but De said the gas companies prefer to “pick off” residents individually to prevent organization.

Bhandari and De don’t fault their neighbors for leasing their minerals, but they said the circumstances have made it feel less like the warm, quiet community they fell in love with almost two decades ago.

The NewsOutlet.org is a collaboration among the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, the University of Akron and professional media including WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator, the Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio of Akron.


Comments

1ytownsteelman(631 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

The noise of drilling rigs is a temporary inconvenience. Rigs are gone within a couple of weeks and all that is left is a wellhead.

Note how the article states that they have "heard" or problems, but do not have problems themselves. Fearmongering.

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2ldog81(5 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

what is the point of this article? these people have had no problems, their only complaint is that there is a well at the edge of their property. Their water isn't contaminated, they worry it could be contaminated, but nowhere in the article does it say that they've had their water tested. this is a waste of newspaper space.

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3Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Looking for a payout

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4Billy_Bob(60 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

What is the Vindicator's position of shale and natural gas drilling? How about fracking and disposing of brine water?

Since they published two articles about the same thing, one being positive and a reason why people should lease their land, the other pointing out the negatives - I was just wondering what position they are taking or are they just stirring the pot at usual?

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5HaydenThomas(208 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

Billy_Bob, the Vindy is a NEWS organization. They are just reporting a story. Why does everything have to have an agenda or side?

Fracking will no doubt ruin the environment. Then people will be complaining they can't sell their homes and the home values are negligible and the few thousand dollars they jumped at will seem foolish and a pittance.

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6juanita1944(34 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

god again......why don't people learn about fracking with some sence...look people they put stuff....nasty stuff in the earth......doesn't the earth bring it back up into our land and water......does a few bucks make it alright to destroy the earth? god save these people that think it's ok cause a company pays a few bucks.......look it up...people.....i feel sorry for the people in texas that will lose their homes and water...and their children.....through all these greedy companies.....i don't know what to say but they put stuff that is waste into the ground.....what in gods name makes you think it's not going to seep back up?stick a hose into the ground and watch the water come back up to the surfice........god people are crazy to think it won't..........mother nature does her job of sending it back to the surfice......god bless you people........that are stupid enough to believe different.......god help me to understand.their logic......and please it looks like to me greed.....isn't that one of the 7 deadly sins......forgive my preaching but i see it coming back up the bite us by the ass......god save you from the poison in the earth.....next it will be in your water and land...and your children pay the price..for cleaning up your mess....

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7JoeFromHubbard(1138 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

ytownsteelman is precisely correct, a little noise, mud and inconvenience for a very short time and then it is all gone.

There is a lot of fearmongering among the those who are uneducated in the oil and gas extraction processes.

Greed, one of the deadly sins, is joined by another, envy. Those whose land provides gas, oil and income are envied by the have-nots.

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8Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

WOW somebody needs to take a deep breath . One question Why doesn't all the oil and gas just come up ????
Could it be that it is locked down there like the waste water will be . Just asking ?????

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9driller(5 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

For ldog81
The problem is the flowback, venting, and emissions from the well site. A majority of wells in this area were tested by TCEQ and found to have higher than permissible levels of benzene - a known carcinogen. A Univ. of Colorado study released last month shoes a much higher risk of cancer amongst people living within half a mile of a drill site.

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10driller(5 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

For those of you who think this is not a public health issue here is another link about what is happening this week at another Chesapeake well in Arlington.
http://www.texassharon.com/2012/04/05...

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11JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

@juanita,

What does "nasty stuff" consist of?
Could you also describe the process of how mother nature brings the "nasty stuff" back to the surface?
By the way, it's more than a few bucks that the landowners receive.

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12driller(5 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

@JME
http://energy.about.com/od/drilling/a...
Here is an answer to your question. Please go do some research on whether the costs in health that are being borne by people all over the Barnett shale are worth trading off for the few hundred dollars that the typical mineral holder receives.

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13JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

driller,
Could you atleast post something from a non-radical legitimate source.

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14driller(5 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

http://insideclimatenews.org/news/201...

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_release...

More information on health effects - not radical unless you find facts and science to be radical.

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15JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

"Here is an answer to your question. "

Maybe I missed it, what is the compositional breakdown of the flowback that is being collected?

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16JME(801 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

"McKenzie analyzed ambient air sample data collected from monitoring stations by the Garfield County Department of Public Health and Olsson Associates Inc. She used standard EPA methodology to estimate non-cancer health impacts and excess lifetime cancer risks for hydrocarbon exposure.
McKenzie noted that EPA standards are designed to be public health proactive and may overestimate risks.
"However, there wasn't data available on all the chemicals emitted during the well development process,""

I wouldn't consider the word "may" to mean that it is a fact, considering the standards for evaluating risk is overestimated.
Nice try

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17driller(5 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

JME
You missed it, go do some reading.

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18JoeFromHubbard(1138 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

With all of the health risks we now face I think that I will stop driving my car to lower my risk of an accident.

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19Bigben(1996 comments)posted 2 years, 8 months ago

@ldog81 "what is the point of this article? these people have had no problems, their only complaint is that there is a well at the edge of their property. Their water isn't contaminated, they worry it could be contaminated, but nowhere in the article does it say that they've had their water tested. this is a waste of newspaper space." - - - - - - - - The point was that it is just another pro fracking article.But you already knew that.

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20KimFeil(2 comments)posted 1 year, 12 months ago

There are so many unknowns and there was no health or environmental impact study done for Arlngton or Ft Worth...etc but we are finding out the hard way about the risks through real life experiences that I detail in my blog BarnettShaeHell. The ten things on the right hand side of the blog are common sense, but the industry and city leaders will not have a conversation to employ these $afeguards to our air and watershed. Now we risk soured wells from Sulfate Reducing Bacteria which is corrosive to cement, steel and harms the water,soil and...lungs. SRB’s require biocides and like mother nature, she ends up outwitting man and these biocides become ineffective overtime...we must not start adding more and more chemicals.

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