DISH residents frustrated with 'invalid' state health tests

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on May 18, 2010 at 10:17 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 19 at 10:13 AM

Location of DISH, Texas

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DISH, Texas — Residents of this small Denton County town concerned over chemicals found in exposure-testing packed a town hall meeting Tuesday night.

Twenty-eight households took part in the study, which showed:

  • 65 percent of those tested had toluene in their systems
  • 53 percent had detectable levels of xylene

But how dangerous are those chemicals? And are the findings linked to drilling in Barnett Shale?

That's what people living in DISH wanted to know.

A state health department toxicologist came to DISH Town Hall to answer questions, trying to ease the concerns of residents. But no one left feeling any better about the chemicals found in the blood and urine of townspeople.

The frustration runs deep — from the mayor and city commissioners to the taxpayers. Many remain skeptical about the testing conducted by the Texas Department of State Health Services.

"You didn't do any air sampling," one DISH resident said at the meeting. "Wouldn't it have been surprising if you had done air sampling and found the chemicals in the blood match the chemicals in the air?"

State toxicologists tested the blood and urine of 28 DISH residents. Six tested above normal levels for toluene; another seven had higher than average levels of xylene.

The toxicologist explained the presence of those chemicals is common, especially in smokers. But Town Commissioner William Sciscoe blasted the study.

"You detected these toxins in pretty much everybody you tested, but you painted it with such a broad brush," he said. "I realize that when you paint with a broad brush, you can cover up a whole lot more dirt."

DISH mayor Calvin Tillman called the state health department testing invalid. The mayor wants them to return to DISH and do more tests, trying to find the source of the chemicals.

"We don't know anything," Tillman said. "We don't know any more than we did before they came. The only thing they've done is come out here and wasted a whole bunch of the taxpayers' money to accomplish absolutely nothing."

Tillman said he'd like to see the natural gas industry clean up their sites, and use more equipment to ensure potential harmful chemicals aren't being released.

As for more testing, state health officials say they are willing to come back to DISH for a follow-up.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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