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January 4, 2011
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Silt Mesa family claims gas fumes forcing them out

SILT, Colorado - One of the most vocal critics of gas drilling activities in the Silt Mesa area has been told by a doctor that she and her family have to move for their health's sake.Beth Strudley, her husband, Bill, and their two sons have been house shopping for weeks, after one of the sons reportedly began suffering from severe rashes, nose bleeds and blackouts.But it was not until Dec. 28 that she got confirmation of her fears from a Grand Junction physician, Dr. Joseph Wezensky of Kokopelli Health & Wellness, said Beth Strudley."He said, 'Get out of that house, now!'" Strudley reported."Our water's screwed, the air is screwed, we have to leave our house," she said on Monday, during a break in the meeting of the Garfield County commissioners. "We have to get out of Silt Mesa."Strudley has been protesting plans by Antero Resources to drill for gas in the area north of Interstate 70 known as Silt Mesa and Peach Valley, which is where she and her family have lived for four years, maintaining that the gas drilling is compromising air and water quality in the area.Downplaying the concerns and fears expressed by Strudley and other residents of Garfield County in recent years, the industry has maintained that their activities are closely regulated by the state government and do not pose health hazards to nearby residents.The industry position is that there is no conclusive evidence of illness due to a person's proximity to gas wells that have been hydraulically fractured, or frac'ed, despite more than 60 years of the practice in various gas-rich parts of the United States.In 2005, Strudley told the Post Independent, she called the offices of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and was told "they'll never drill for gas on Silt Mesa." She said she was told that one gas drilling company had done some testing in the late 1980s and concluded that it was not an economically viable location for extracting natural gas.But new drilling techniques brought Antero into the neighborhood last summer, and Strudley has been protesting against the drilling rigs, the service trucks and the industry in general ever since.Her most highly public effort involved posting large signs in her yard that proclaimed, "Antero Is Going To Poison Our Water," among other warnings."Unfortunately, that bloody sign, everything I have on it has come true," she said.William Strudley, 13, was the first to show symptoms, beginning with severe nosebleeds that his mom said could only be stemmed by putting Tampon feminine napkins up his nose.He then developed a persistent rash over much of his body that itches and burns.Then, two weeks ago, his mother said, he passed out in the bathroom for no apparent reason.In the meantime, her other son, Charlie, 11, has begun showing the same symptoms, as have she and her husband."I have to buy a new box of Tampons," Strudley said with a flash of humor. "Everybody's been using them."Speaking to the Board of County Commissioners, she said, "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."Silt Mesa is becoming the sad twin sister of Divide Creek," she told the commissioners, referring to another part of Garfield County that has seen intensive gas drilling activities.In her statement, Strudley cited the case of Chris Mobaldi, a former resident of Garfield County who lived south of Rifle. She died last year of a rare pituitary tumor that she, her husband and a family doctor felt was related to her exposure to gas drilling activities."The rest of the world is watching in horror of what you are allowing to happen," she admonished the commissioners, adding that Wezensky told her that living where she is living "is on a fast track to all kinds of cancers."This, I believe, is now your problem to fix," she declared. "You need to get Antero Resources away from our homes and families. Well, what are you going to do? How are you going to stop my son from dying?"The commissioners did not respond to Strudley's remarks, but called on the next speaker on the meeting's agenda.jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 4, 2011 11:30AM Published Jan 4, 2011 11:28AM Copyright 2011 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.