Fort Worth neighborhood fights wells over health concerns

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by By CHRIS HAWES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on November 4, 2009 at 4:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 12 at 8:25 PM

FORT WORTH - Carol Mulkay is representing Fort Worth's Chadwick Farms neighborhood in its efforts to deny approval for three additional high-impact natural gas wells in the neighborhood.

"People are frightened," she said. "People are threatening to sell their homes and leave if the wells go in.?"?

The neighborhood currently has three high-impact wells. If the new wells are approved by Fort Worth City Council, the closest would be about 300 feet from homes.

"Seven wells I?find intolerable," Mulkay said.

Mulkay and other residents who attended Tuesday's Fort Worth City Council meeting are concerned about effects on the environment. They say their fears were underscored by the recent discovery of what state investigators call "surprising' levels of benzene near some natural gas facilities in the Barnett Shale.

Long-term exposure to benzene can cause leukemia.

The preliminary test results are a part of a larger Texas Commission on Environmental Quality study of air quality in the Barnett Shale.? A report is anticipated next month.

saw News 8's report last week revealing?TCEQ's benzene concerns for the first time,??she was horrified. She was relieved, however, ?to see the state is talking about the potential danger publicly.

"My gut reaction was:?It's about time?," Mulkay said.

TCEQ has previously come under fire for its handling of emissions near natural gas facilities. Many smaller facilities legally don't have to file applications with the state, essentially operating on the honor system by stating that their emissions are below a certain level.

The state can investigate complaints, but staffers already have a heavy workload.?

"We have 12 investigators specifically assigned to air in the Dallas-Fort Worth region," TCEQ spokesman Steve Hagle said, adding that additional staffers from Austin have traveled to the Barnett Shale to assist in the air quality study.?

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is now considering stepping in, as TCEQ ponders its own permitting and enforcement changes.

"Big Brother -- TCEQ -- is watching," said State Sen. Wendy Davis. "But big, big brother is watching -- EPA is really cracking down on TCEQ right now."

On Tuesday, however, the pressure was on Fort Worth City Council, as residents asked members to deny the four additional gas wells next to their homes.

After listening to their concerns, Council members postponed a final decision until December.

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