I felt it was time to share something with you. Last fall I testified to the EPA regarding concerns with our family’s health and natural gas operations. If I had the opportunity to resubmit this testimony again, I would also mention the bloody noses, dizziness and many, many other health issues my family has and is experiencing, which we are now learning could be related to nat gas operations near our home and in our community.
I decided to share this tonight, after holding it close for fear, safety, anonymity… However, in this journey I am learning one thing; honestly and transparency are appreciated and move to equip and empower others. (Please note that although I was present at the physical hearings, I was unable to read my statement personally, as I simply could not get through it without crying.)
September 27, 2011
To whom this may concern,
This is a hard letter to write. Not because the content is not worthy, but because I may have difficulty processing through it all.
First… let me say, that my lack of being present at this hearing is not a reflection of my feelings of importance for this issue. This issue is beyond “important”; this is presently the most important issue on my plate. I appreciate you allowing someone to read this statement and pray that you can in fact hear my voice though his.
I am April Beach; 35 year old Erie, Colorado resident, wife, mother of three amazing boys, owner of a New Parent Consulting Firm, stereo-typical suburban mom and an individual directly affected by the natural gas drilling surrounding me. I am educated, well balanced and could not necessarily be considered an environmental activist until now…until it hit home. Here is our story from the beginning and up to the minute.
In 2002 my husband and I bought our first home in Erie, Colorado. Expecting our first son, this was an exciting time. Near this home, they drilled the first gas well I had ever seen. Not knowing what this was, we paid little attention to this well (within sight of our home) and managed to get used to the night tremors or little earth quakes it seemed to produce. Then in 2005, with the addition of our second son, I began to not feel well. After 8 months of tests, spinal tapping and MRIs, I was diagnosed with an “unexplained lesion in my spinal cord”. Thankful for no cancer and MS, we moved from our first home and built the next; just down the street. I still continue to experience the affects from this lesion and am subject to yearly MRIs to monitor my condition.
Our new home was perfect. It was on a cul-de-sac, backed to open space with trails for the kids (now numbering 3) to ride bikes, explore and just be boys. We did notice the presence of the two gas wells at the end of the road. No one seemed to pay much attention to them and I trusted that if in fact there was something to be concerned about; someone would surely let us know! As our oldest son grew, the huge Cottonwood tree right next to the wells became his favorite escape; tree fort and all. That same summer Tim played at the tree; he began breathing treatments for asthma like symptoms and developed migraine headaches which have become more frequent and which he deals with on a regular basis today.
Time passed in this new home and our youngest boy Sam, presented some extreme sensitivities. First let me say that Sam is my hero. He is the toughest, strongest, happiest, “water-off-a-ducks-back” kid I have ever met. Sam is a regular at the ER for on-contact anaphylaxis allergy issues. Sam’s auto immune issues are “unexplainably severe” and only 3% of the population experience reactions like Sam does, according to his doctors. Even with this, Sam never had asthma or any breathing issues what so ever! In fact, he is a super athletic kid. His activities range from kayaking and climbing to the fact that he taught himself to skate board… right there at the end of the street by the newest and scariest gas well. In January of 2010, shortly after the newest Well was drilled and fracked; Sam developed asthma.
On top of Sam’s issues, we are all very frequently sick! In fact, we are sick so often that our friends began to recommend we look into outside causes. Sicknesses would range from colds and flu symptoms, to migraines, to GI issues and lethargy, to strange and unexplained pains in
our bodies. Not knowing what else to do; I began importing our water. This was a quick and expensive reaction to try and produce a good result. This did not work. I do not think the problem is our water; I think it’s our air.
Last December, Encana Oil and Gas drilled a new well right at the end of our street and closer than the others. The drilling alone was difficult. Our walls were shaking, pictures fell and the hundreds of trucks that passed within feet of my home were hard to handle, especially the ones leaking fluids across the back field and the community walking trail.
Shortly after this well was drilled, I became very sick with GI issues and extreme pain. The sickness lasted for nearly three months and consisted of vomiting, strange and gross bowel activities, lethargy, headaches, and extreme abdominal pain. Narcotics were the only way I was able to function and manage the pain. Test results came back negative and no one could explain my illness. In this time, I began to look into gas drilling. I have to credit my sister for making me look into it. I was afraid to find the truth that I did.
Also during this time, Sam developed asthma. The onset was so fast that his symptoms went from initial development to completely out of control breathing within a week. We were using his rescue inhaler all the time and Sam still could not breathe. After another return to the hospital, Sam was placed on steroids to manage his symptoms. Sam now takes daily preventatives to breathe combined with a rescue inhaler when needed. I myself have now also developed asthma symptoms and have been ordered to undergo pulmonary testing. My nine year old has rotated on and off inhalers, and my 38 year old husband has been recently re-diagnosed with his once-cured childhood asthma.
One day, after the well was finalized, I came home to something new. At the immediate end of our street, right along the pedestrian walking trail and within 550 ft. from my home was a chimney. I am not sure if this is the technical name, but the object was in fact a chimney. Coming out of the top was a constant think, clear, vapor-cloud spewing all over the homes on my street and certainly on everyone walking by. In my children’s’ cases, it was pouring all over them. I had no idea what is was but began knocking on neighbors’ doors for information. Surely, this was a mistake. I immediately called Encana Oil and Gas who dispatched a crew to look into my concern. Their findings were a “properly functioning well”. I was told that the emission cloud was excess gas being burned off and not to be worried. Excess gas in itself is alarming, but after my own research, I learned that was not in fact what was seeping into my kids’ lungs but rather carcinogens, and VOCs and excess fracking fluids conveniently burned off as part of the process to save the gas. Save the gas… What about the kids?
Where are we now?
Today, the gas drilling is completely commanding and dominating the town of Erie, (just east of Boulder). There are notices and signs for new wells to be drilled all over town. They are drilling so fast that people don’t have time to question. It is my understanding that this is usually the plan; drill fast and get out; any health issues or property damage can be silenced with finances. As we speak there are 5 new drilling pads within a mile of my home. We also received notice a few months ago that Encana plans to drill numerous more wells directly within our area. In any
community, this could be disastrous; in a place where the weather patterns and atmospheric inversions are already a health concern, this is a death sentence.
Back at my House:
Tonight, as I prepare this document, Sam (now only 5), has been up for his 15th consecutive night with breathing issues. Sometimes he coughs so hard he throws up. Tonight, thankfully he this didn’t happen. In the morning, he will get up again and breathe his steroids, Timothy (9) will wonder if he’ll get another migraine, my husband will follow his asthma management plan, and I will make my next appointment for an MRI, schedule with the asthma doctor, plan for my daily headache and try to gather all of my things to make it to this hearing. Because… I realize you are our only hope right now.
When my boys grow older, I pray they are healthy. I want them to look back knowing that we did all we could, we were not silenced or naive. We stood up and voiced our rights to protect ourselves and others. We did what needed to be done, no matter how inconvenient it may have been. Despite the intimidation of big corporate funding, economics and the argument that we can’t make a difference because we’re too small. And most of all, because I want them to know that I love them, and that I did all I could to protect them and keep them healthy. I will never let them look back and ask me why not? This is important, and I am trusting in you to help make a difference where my arms cannot reach far enough to protect them. Thank you in advance.