he'll stop raping the land
- and not before."
See that rig on the left? That's right by the highway I drive down all the time. Gas drilling like this is going on all across Dallas/Fort Worth deeply embedded into cities right next to houses, apartments, schools - you name it. Once the drilling is done the tower rig goes down and it's capped or pumped depending on demand. But all I can think when I see one of those suckers is "God help us if one of those blows."
After finding this in my own backyard I decided it was time I did some more investigating. Just how suicidal are we? This kind of drilling has been going on for years. Poorly regulated pump stations are putting God knows what poison into the environment. Forewarned is forearmed, I say.
There are certain stories where I have to skip over the gory details. I know the human heart already. I know the implications. I don't need to know the exact details. It's just too insufferable. So I only vaguely know of the horrors of the side effects of gas drilling, of putting poison into people and animals - and perhaps even threatening our entire water supply if it seeps into the underground aquifers. Who are we to act like this??
DISH, Texas is Ground Zero for Barnett Shale activists who take offense at being poisoned by natural gas drilling.
I'd heard of Dish, Texas but didn't know where it was until I looked it up and it's right here on our doorstep in DFW, just down the road from a famous Bonnie and Clyde bank robbery in Ponder. Local paper FW Weekly and NPR have done numerous articles on them. So I gathered up my trusty camera and decided to see what I could see. The NPR story sounded ominous:
Quite a few of the 225 people who live in Dish, Texas, think the nation's natural gas boom is making them sick. They blame the chemicals used in gas production for health problems ranging from nosebleeds to cancer. And the mayor of Dish, Bill Sciscoe, has a message for people who live in places where gas drilling is about to start: "Run. Run as fast as you can. Grab up your family and your belongings, and get out."
But of course you just can't be sick, you have to prove you're sick.
But scientists say it's just not clear whether pollutants from gas wells are hurting people in Dish or anywhere else. What is clear, they say, is that the evidence the town has presented so far doesn't have much scientific heft.
The mere presence of a chemical isn't enough to show it caused a symptom, scientists say. You have to show that a person was exposed to a high enough concentration for a long enough period to cause itchy eyes or a scratchy throat.
And the Dish survey didn't do that, says Tom La Point, a toxicologist at the University of North Texas in Denton, about 15 miles east of Dish, and a member of a task force looking at the impact of gas drilling.
The question of whether poisoning our environment or not is a good idea would seem to be a simple one. That's because it is! Who the fuck voluntarily puts poison in their land, water and air? Fucking brainwashed maniacs, that's who! We have convinced ourselves we have to poison ourselves in order to live. Well, aren't we special??
The town's previous mayor, Calvin Tillman, became alarmed when his two boys started getting nosebleeds. They seemed to occur when the odors of gas were strongest and air quality monitoring showed higher levels of chemicals, Tillman says.
Then one night his younger son had a really bad nosebleed.
"Our house literally looked like a murder scene," Tillman says. "There was blood down the wall and in the hallway. And I got up the next morning to go to work, and my wife said, 'That is it.' And at that moment we decided we've got to move out of here."
Despite that story and similar accounts to that I did see new construction in Dish along side existing subdivisions. What gives? Is the power of denial that strong when a comfy house can be had? Children were playing around the new construction. Who would risk their kid on even the chance of getting sick? What sort of city is it where even the mayor hates the town he lives in?
I drove around Dish and the surrounding area. I found a hodgepodge of housing from trailers to wonderful ranch houses. Oil and gas companies have domain rights even over private property in Texas and what regulatory staffs there are are filled by industry insiders. Thank you, Governor Perry! The landowners look to have capitulated and learned to live side by side with the wells.
One thing not lacking in the area was storage tanks. They dotted the land worse than teenage acne before a prom. Here's just a few:
I was nearing the end of my picture taking on this hot summer day when I noticed an older car following me. Finally I stopped to see if my suspicions were true and he pulled up beside me.
"Hey, why you taking pictures of my house?"
"I didn't take pictures of your house. I don't know which one that is. I'm just taking pictures at random. I read about Dish and wanted to see what's going on."
Once he found out I was not the "enemy" he opened up about his complaints. He said the processing facility where five different energy companies combined their efforts was his greatest irritant. At one point the noise was so loud two people standing ten feet apart could not hear each other. I asked if the water had been fouled but he said no as they test religiously - while acknowledging that's no guarantee of safety.
The air pollution is what's killing Dish according to my informant. You can call in a complaint about the foul air but if it clears before inspectors arrive then it's like it never happened. Even the gas industry doesn't dispute emission are occurring. What isn't known is just how much and exactly what is being emitted. With all its urban drilling the city of Fort Worth is grappling mightily with this issue also. The long term effects of emissions in a compressed area may not be known until it's too late.
What's not in doubt is the road damage - about two billion dollars. Eighteen wheelers like the tanker above pound roads to pieces that were never designed for such heavy traffic. My informant told me the graveled curve above was smooth pavement before the trucks arrived. Who's going to pay to fix them?
But when there's money to be made it's drill first and ask questions later. Man has mandated money to keep us alive. Nature mandates the environment to keep us alive. Gee, wonder who's going to win that fight?? Naturally, those who destroy the environment claim innocence. But that is Nature's judgement to make, and all the court rulings, slick arguments and spin jobs in the world won't make a damn bit of difference.
We're just pretending we have to poison our souls to live.
Scientists are quick to caution that the problems with evidence from Dish do not show that gas drilling is safe for people who live near it. What the caveats show is that there is a pressing need for rigorous scientific studies, Schwartz says.
"When these areas are developed, thousands to tens of thousands of wells are drilled and fracked. So the magnitude is huge," he says. "And frankly, the development is way out ahead of public health evaluations of any kind to date."
That's not fair to the people in Dish or any other place in the country where drilling and fracking have got people worried, he says.
Click here to see the entire set
Here's me sneaking up on a rig last year: