No. 7 news story of 2011: Silt Mesa gas drilling upset some residents |

No. 7 news story of 2011: Silt Mesa gas drilling upset some residents

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

SILT, Colorado – Controversy escalated this year over plans by Antero Resources, an energy company working the natural gas fields in Garfield County, to step up its drilling activities in the Silt Mesa and Peach Valley areas.

The company applied to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to increase the density of its drilling activities by a factor of four, from one well per 40 acres to one well per 10 acres.

The application was for two different square-mile sections of the area, which is a semi-rural neighborhood of scattered homes and small ranchettes.

Garfield County intervened in late 2010 on behalf of residents, citing concerns about the residents’ health and welfare. Following negotiations with the neighbors and settlement talks with the county, Antero agreed in February to back off from requesting increased well density.

Later in the year, Antero spokesmen Jon Black confirmed that the company would not be drilling any more wells in the Silt Mesa area in 2011, while the results produced by drilling four exploratory wells in 2010 were analyzed.

The drilling of the four exploratory wells, however, sparked charges that toxic chemicals from the drilling activities had contaminated the domestic water well of a family’s home.

The family of Bill and Beth Strudley told reporters they fell ill in the fall of 2010 after they were assailed by what they said were intense odors of “rotten eggs” that they believed were coming from their water well.

The odor is one characteristic of low levels of hydrogen sulfide, a gas that has been associated with drilling activities in Garfield County and that can be fatal at high enough concentrations.

Antero officials had reassured Silt Mesa residents that its gas drilling activities posed no health threat to those living in the area.

But the Strudleys, who complained of severe skin rashes, nose bleeds and blackouts, among other symptoms, thought otherwise.

On Jan. 3, Beth Strudley told the Post Independent that she had consulted with a physician in Grand Junction, Dr. Joseph Wezensky, who told her to move. Within weeks the family relocated to another part of the county.

Strudley told the Post Independent recently that the family’s symptoms lessened after they moved, but that she, her husband and their two young sons continue to suffer from inexplicable illnesses.

The industry contends there is no conclusive evidence of illness resulting from exposure to gas wells that have been hydraulically fractured, or fracked, citing more than 60 years of the practice in various gas-rich parts of the United States.

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