A woman who grew gravely ill after living near gas drilling activities in the Rifle area has died in Grand Junction, to where she and her husband moved to get away from the rigs.Elizabeth "Chris" Mobaldi, 63, died on Nov. 14, at 4:40 a.m., after a lengthy battle with a rare and persistent tumor of the pituitary gland, according to her husband, Steve.She recently underwent her third surgery related to the tumor, Steve added, and complications of that surgery led to her death.A gas industry spokesman, David Ludlam, wrote in an e-mail about Mobaldi's death: "The West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association is an organization, but we're made up of people. And on behalf of our membership, we offer condolences to the Mobaldi family. Offering anything beyond reverence, at this time, would be a great disrespect to her family and community."Industry representatives have long argued that there is no conclusive evidence that proximity to gas wells has adverse effects on the environment or on human health.From 1993 to 2004, the Mobaldis had lived near Rifle, on County Road 320 south of the Colorado River, Steve Mobaldi recalled in a telephone interview on Tuesday.According to testimony by Mobaldi before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in Washington, D.C., the couple suffered symptoms such as headaches, burning eyes and skin, which they believed were related to the drilling rigs as close as 300 feet from their home.The first of Chris' three pituitary tumors appeared in 2001, roughly four years after gas rigs went up near their home, Steve Mobaldi said. At the time, he said, the rigs were operated by Barrett Resources, which later was sold to the Williams Cos.The couple moved to Grand Junction in 2004.Chris Mobaldi, aside from her other symptoms, developed rashes, blisters and a rare malady known as "foreign accent syndrome," a speech abnormality that is quite rare.According to published sources, only 60 cases of the condition had been reported as of 2009, and it typically occurs as a side-effect of severe brain injury such as head trauma or stroke.A physician who treated Chris Mobaldi, Dr. Kendall Gerdes of Colorado Springs, said, "When I first met her ... I thought it must be some kind of Eastern European thing."Asked if he agrees with Steve Mobaldi's assertion that the symptoms are in some way related to exposure to gas drilling activities, Gerdes said simply, "I do."But, he continued, this conclusion is based on his understanding of the couple and their story, and that "there's not a lot of testing you can do that will prove or disprove that. I think that [Mobaldi's exposure to drilling chemicals] was causative. I am simply looking at time, cause and effect relationships." He said tests indicated that Chris Mobaldi was "vulnerable" to toxic influences "because she did not detoxify as rapidly as other people," meaning that chemicals accumulate more readily in her fatty tissues.The fact that others have reported similar symptoms they believe are caused by proximity to gas rigs, has prompted some doctors, including Gerdes, to call for greater investigation of the health effects of gas drilling.Recently, the Garfield County government supported a Health Impact Assessment to establish a base-line of data for residents of the Battlement Mesa residential neighborhood, where the Antero Resources gas company is planning to drill up to 200 wells within the community's boundaries."It is an ongoing problem, and one that deserves a lot of attention," said Gerdes, specifically mentioning requests by Antero for permission to drill one well for every 10 acres of land, rather than the current density of one well per 160 acres, in residential sections of the county.Industry officials have stressed that 10-acre spacing, as it is known, already is in place in many parts of Garfield County. They note that the term refers to below ground bores and does not signify a drilling rig on every 10-acre parcel of firstname.lastname@example.org
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