Is Fracking Behind Silt, Colorado’s Water Problems?

Silt, Colorado has experienced a number of water contamination issues over the past year. In some instances, the natural gas drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been implicated in the problems.

According to a recent report in the Post Independent, Antero Resources has drilled several wells in the area, and has applied for increased well density with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the agency that oversees the industry in the state, prompting an outcry from some of those living nearby.

Late last year, the Post Independent reported that Beth Strudley, her husband, Bill, and their two sons started house hunting after their family began suffering rashes, nose bleeds and other problems Beth blames on nearby fracking. She says Antero’s drilling has ruined her water well, which now smells like rotten eggs, and compromised air quality in the area.

“Our water’s screwed, the air is screwed, we have to leave our house,” she recently told the Post Independent. “We have to get out of Silt Mesa.”

“My son, our whole family, has been chemically poisoned by the toxic fumes that Antero Resources is enveloping Silt Mesa in, on a daily basis, since Aug. 9, 2010,” when Antero put up its first rig in the area, Beth said during a meeting of the Garfield County Board of Commissioners last month, according to Post Independent.

According to a report from KREXTV.com, Strudley began putting up large signs all over her property. A large white banner proclaiming, “Antero is going to poison our water,” with an ominous black skull and crossbones sits in her front yard. Smaller signs that say, “We are terrified of what Antero is doing to our water, air and land!” stand next to the street. The messages “FRACKING KILLS” and “ANTERO=POISON” hang in the windows.

Last November, two schools in the Garfield School District had to shut of their drinking water and were supplying bottled water to students and staff after town of Silt’s water supply is in violation of the Colorado drinking water standard for a class of chemicals called total trihalomethanes (TTHMs). It was the second time this year that the town’s water has been in violation.

TTHMs form when the source water with natural organic matter is treated with chlorine. Municipalities are required to test TTHM levels quarterly at multiple locations throughout the water system. TTHMs in excess of maximum contamination level, over many years, may experience problems with their liver, kidneys and central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer, according to a letter sent to Silt residents.

One way TTHMs can occur in water when bromide in fracking waste reacts with the chlorine disinfectants used by water authorities to treat drinking water. However, at this time, fracking is not being blame for TTHM problems in Silt. Silt’s public works director told the Citizen Telegram that TTHM levels typically raise in the spring and summer months with the high river flows because more organic matter is flushed into the river. Officials are hoping the levels will have fallen when they do the first round of water testing for 2011.

Beth Strudley, however, suspects fracking could be behind the TTHM problems. She told KREXTV.com that she thought it was “very coincidental” that the timing of the town’s TTHM warning coincided with Antero’s drilling.

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