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‘People need to become aware’

Kelley Cox Post Independent
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The Strudley family of Silt Mesa is not happy about the way things are turning out in their neighborhood, whey they say they were told they’d never have to worry about gas drilling.

Smack between their property and the rising Grand Hogback hills to the north is a relatively new gas pad where a well has been drilled, frac’ed [hydraulically fractured] and appears ready for completion, said Beth Strudley.

On the road in front of their home, tanker trucks now regularly rumble up and down a steep incline, rolling either to or from the drilling pad, which is operated by Antero Resources.



The family has installed an expensive new cistern and is planning to begin hauling water for household use rather than trust to their 475-foot deep water well, which they now believe is threatened with contamination from the drilling activities.

And, to give voice to all their frustration and anxiety, they have begun displaying signs in their front yard that give vent to their feelings and let the world know where they stand.



They started creating and erecting the signs “when we saw the bulldozers clearing an area for the drilling,” said Beth Strudley on Sept. 22.

Beth Strudley, who grew up in Aspen and Carbondale, then moved oversees for a decade or so, returned to the area around the year 2000 and has lived on Silt Mesa for about four years.

“The whole thing I’m concerned about is, how they treat people,” she said, referring to gas drilling companies and their conflicts with area residents.

Beth Strudley cited tales of locals who have claimed their water has been contaminated by gas drilling nearby, of individuals and in cases entire families sickened after gas rigs moved into their neighborhoods, of lives upended by turmoil and disease, she waxed eloquent about her views of the industry.

“What happens when we do run out of water?” she asked, after maintaining that aquifers are already being polluted and arguing that such pollution cannot be mended.

She recalled speaking by telephone a few years ago, before they bought their Silt Mesa home, with Dave Neslin, executive director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in Denver.

She said he told her that energy companies had explored the mesa back in the 1980s and concluded it would not be worthwhile to sink gas wells there, so she should not worry about the industry invading her neighborhood.

Neslin could not be reached Friday for confirmation, but since a well has been dug near her home, Strudley obviously feels misinformed by someone.

Just before the drilling started, Strudley said, her family received two different analyses of their well water.

One, by a private firm hired by the Strudleys, showed nothing hazardous in their water at that point, she said.

The other, she continued, was conducted by a firm associated with Antero, and detected small amounts of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical typically associated with gas drilling activities.

Antero officials could not be reached for comment about the analysis or other issues raised in this story, but Strudley commented hotly, “How can that be?”

Beth Strudley, whose husband, Bill, is a New Zealander and runs his own painting company, said her conflicts with Antero reached a new low recently when

someone erected a sign opposite the Strudleys’ property that read, “People Like You Poison our country by employing illegal aliens.”

After explaining that her husband deals only with subcontractors, and has never hired an illegal alien in any event, she added that on the back of the sign she found the name, Antero Resources.

“You can’t fight these guys, because they have so much money,” Strudley lamented. “They’re corrupt, in my opinion. They don’t care what they do to people’s lives.”

After living oversees and seeing how other cultures deal with conflicts such as the one she is experiencing, Beth Strudley said, “I don’t understand why the people in the movies [documentaries about the gas industry and conflicts with its neighbors] are so nice.”

She said she takes her cue from others who are active in resisting the gas industry, saying, “I’m really pissed off about all this, and not being able to do anything about it … all these people are starting to drop dead from the effects of these gas wells.”

For example, she said, a Rifle man recently died of cancer, and his family believes it was caused by exposure to chemicals associated with the gas industry’s activities.

And a former local woman, Chris Mobaldi, now lives in Grand Junction and has developed life-threatening tumors and other ailments that she blames on drilling near her home in Garfield County in the late 1980s.

Industry spokespersons have denied responsibility for these incidents, arguing that there has never been direct evidence that gas drilling activities threaten the health of those living nearby.

But the Strudley family is not buying that argument.

“People that have [gas] wells [on their properties] are getting royalties, and they’re not interested in talking about this,” she said with some anger.

But for the sake of the general welfare, she continued, “People need to become aware of what’s happening here … so many people are getting sick. I can’t help but cry every time I watch one of those movies, about what’s happening to these people.”

As for the future, she predicted, “We’re going to see more and more people getting sick and dying. I’m scared. I’m terrified for my family’s health.”

jcolson@postindependent.com


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