MONTAGUE COUNTY — A startling discovery is igniting fears about whether oil and gas drilling has ruined ground water in a rural Montague County community.
It's not just salty water coming out of the faucets at Stephen Brock's home near Bowie, about 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth; it's natural gas.
Brock knew his pipes gurgled, but he didn't realize they were burping flammable gas until Monday.
He decided to test his faucet after watching a documentary on drilling. He ignited a lighter next to the running water.
"It totally engulfed the whole sink," Brock said. "I jumped back and shut the water off, then I called the Railroad Commission right away."
The Texas Railroad commission examines drilling issues. Brock said investigators took samples the next day, and returned for more right after the phenomenon was documented by News 8.
"The Railroad Commission guy told me, 'Yeah, it's coming in your well, up through your well,'" Brock said.
That water well is heavily corroded. The itself tastes very salty and is undrinkable.
There are four children in Brock's home. "Now I'm really worried about letting my kids take a shower in it," he said.
Charmin Sharp used to live next door to Brock, but said she had to move because the well water got so foul. "I dye my hair blonde, so it turned a nasty orange color," she said.
Sharp said she spent hundreds of dollars on filters, which were quickly fouled by the water.
She moved across the street, where the water is still too salty to drink, but at least her faucets won't flame.
Both Brock and Sharp first complained to the Railroad Commission two years ago. At that time, investigators detected no high levels of chemicals in the water.
But when they checked a nearby well where drillers had injected salty waste water, they found the casing to be "insufficient."
"I'm very worried," Brock said. "I'm sitting on a bomb."
Stephen Brock hopes to get answers soon on where the gas is coming from, and what — if anything — he can do about it.
"One little spark on a gas pocket sends me sky high. That's my feeling," he said.