North Texas Misery Blamed on Barnett Shale Fracking Boom

Some residents of North Texas are blaming natural gas drilling in the Barnett shale for respiratory problems and other ailments. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, a few – including the Mayor of Dish, Texas – have chosen to leave the area because of misery they attribute to the hydraulic fracturing boom that has transformed the Barnett shale into the nation’s largest producer of natural gas.

Rebekah Sheffield, a mother living in Dish, told the Chronicle that she believes pollution from natural gas wells located across the road from her farmhouse has made her sick. Sheffield suffers from a hypersensitivity disorder and has vertigo so severe that she has to use a wheelchair. Doctors have been unable to pinpoint the cause of her multiple chemical sensitivities, but Sheffield blames toxins emitted by the nearby fracking operations.

According to the Chronicle, Dish, with a population of just 200, is home to three metering stations, more than 20 major gas gathering pipelines and 11 compression plants stationed within the two square miles of the town limits. An estimated 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas flows through these facilities. Other Dish residents have complained of nosebleeds, pain, and poor circulation since the first compressor station was built in their town in 2005. As we’ve reported in the past, the air around Dish was found to contain high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. While no one has been able to prove a direct connection, many in Dish believe natural gas drilling is to blame for the town’s suffering.

As we’ve reported in earlier articles, Dish Mayor Calvin Tillman is among those who have left the town over concerns that natural gas drilling pollution was poisoning his family. He put his Dish home on the market in September, and according to the Chronicle, closed the sale last month. He and his family now live in a nearby town.

Tillman was among the people featured in the Oscar-nominated HBO documentary “GasLand”, in which he was seen talking of his fears that someone would accidently “blow up the town” someday. The mayor has been crusading to protect air and water in Dish from fracking since 2007.

Earlier this month, the town of Dish filed suit against six natural gas or pipeline companies, claiming compressor stations associated with hydraulic fracturing operations in the area are ruining the town’s air. As we reported at the time, the complaint calls the compressor stations “a public nuisance.” It also alleges that the compressor stations have harmed the emotional and financial well-being of the community. In addition to the town’s lawsuit, two others have been filed against the same companies by other Dish property owners.

The lawsuits target Atmos Energy Corp., Crosstex North Texas Gathering LP, Enbridge Gathering LP, Energy Transfer Fuel LP, Texas Midstream Gas Services LLC and Enterprise Texas Pipeline LLC. All claim the plaintiffs are entitled to collect monetary damages from the gas companies because of diminished property values.

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