Silt drilling critic says well water is tainted
Woman reports rotten egg smell in area with several gas wells
December 2, 2010
Silt — One of the most vocal critics of Garfield County's oil and gas industry reported Tuesday that her domestic water well started smelling like rotten eggs and she fears it may have been tainted by nearby gas drilling activities.
"I can't say that I'm surprised," said Beth Strudley on Tuesday, noting that she has been warning her neighbors and everyone who would listen that having a gas rig nearby is not good for local water quality.
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.
Industry representatives have downplayed the fears of Strudley's and others who think the procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, poses hazards to water quality in Garfield County.
The procedure involves injecting water and chemicals into a well bore after it is drilled to break up the deep rock formations where natural gas deposits are trapped and permit the gas to flow to the surface.
According to the industry, there never has been conclusive evidence that fracking has contaminated ground water in areas where drilling activities are conducted.
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Strudley told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that she and her family went away last weekend and when they returned they noticed a distinct odor of "rotten eggs" in the house.
"It's worse today than it was on Monday," she said Tuesday.
Garfield County's oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, went out to the Strudley property on Silt Mesa on Tuesday, along with Linda Spry O'Rourke, a Rifle-based field engineer for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
The two took samples of the water in the Strudleys' water well with the hope of determining what might be causing the odor and whether it is related to the gas drilling activities.
Jordan said in her experience there have been no cases of possible well contamination in the eastern part of Garfield County involving odors similar to rotten eggs.
A couple of such cases had occurred in other parts of county, she said, and added that there has been no clear evidence that fracking caused contamination of the ground water.
Jordan said the results from the well sampling are not due back for three weeks or more.
Strudley said the family has had "no issues with our water whatsoever" since moving to Silt Mesa four years ago, adding that her family already had begun to install a new water system that would bypass the well and rely on hauled water.
"I'm not having a shower, and my kids are not touching that water," she said.
She also has said the air quality in her neighborhood has deteriorated since Antero began drilling.
The Strudleys' problems have coincided with developments in other parts of the country where gas drilling and community concerns have come into conflict.
Pittsburgh recently became the first city in Pennsylvania to ban natural gas exploration within the city limits.
According to a story in the USA Today, 362 acres in the city had been leased for drilling, though no drilling had occurred as of Nov. 16.