Impacted Resident Testimony

Our Home As Refuge

by

At end of 1993 I had packed up my belongings, sold my house in Northern Virginia, and left the Washington, D.C area after 23 years of working for political campaign, non-profits and the Federal government. Heading west was an exciting journey into open spaces and new adventures.

By February I had, along with my soon to be new husband, chosen an eight year old house on six acres about a mile out of Erie, Colorado. We were excited to refocus our personal efforts on restoring this small piece of land back to the days before it was overgrazed by cattle.

Within a couple of years, we received a letter from an oil and gas drilling company stating that they were going to drill a well on the land. What ensued was a struggle over what our rights were and what the company wanted to pressure us into. In the end, they backed off and instead drilled down the hill from us after a developer paid them a large sum of money to slant drill under the land where they planned to build Northridge.

The consequence is that we are now surrounded by a constellation of wells that have moved closer and closer to houses, schools, and playgrounds. The stories of began to be reported of a rise in asthma, bronchitis, other respiratory ailments. Questions arose about the occurrence of cancers and heart disease, especially near oil and gas sites or downwind from them.

In the years to come, it was fairly quiet in the neighborhood. However, by 2006 we could count over 40 wells that had been placed in various locations in the area. Another boom would occur around 2016 when developers bought out farmers, and oil and gas rushed in to drill before houses could be built.

The consequence is that we are now surrounded by a constellation of wells that have moved closer and closer to houses, schools, and playgrounds. The stories began to be reported of a rise in asthma, bronchitis, other respiratory ailments. Questions arose about the occurrence of cancers and heart disease, especially near oil and gas sites or downwind from them.

A massive operation on the corner of County Line Road and Road 10 ½ left all of us with air, light and noise pollution. Our house vibrated 24 hours a day. Next a move to reopen old wells at the juncture of Road 1 ½ and Road 3, about a 1000 feet from our house, increased traffic, added flaring and more air and light pollution. On Christmas evening in 2017, as we accompanied our daughter and her family to their car, we were assaulted by a chemical smell so harsh that our eyes immediately teared up, and we were left with intense headaches. It would be the first of many such incidents.

Our twin granddaughters were attending Aspen Ridge in Erie when it was discovered that a well had been reopened in the field next to school and was blowing effluents onto the playground. And an old well was reopened behind my daughter’s home in Erie Highlands about 300 feet from their back porch. They have since moved.

A group of Erie citizens had a blood tests to see if there were any signs of effects from the pollution from the wells. My blood test showed a very high level of Benzene. Many residents found volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at beyond normal levels. For me, I have gone through three different detoxification programs and am now being monitored annually.

Since we live on a well for our water, we have done periodic tests. The Weld County Public Health Department has tested the water. And at least two independent environmental companies have done tests that include VOCs levels. It is not in the water, but all indications from air quality results suggest that the VOCs are in the air.

What do we do? We document the wells as indicated by the photos I have taken. Second, I file complaints with the COGCC. I have also written, texted and called members of the Colorado General Assembly. But most important, I have conducted over thirty tours of the Erie and Broomfield area to show elected and appointed officials and candidates what our community looks like. Aside from the data that is been collected, there are the stories of people who love their homes and communities and have been forced to move or go to extraordinary means to keep themselves safe and healthy.

One oil and gas company has stated that ‘this is what happens when you develop in an oil field.’ I have lived her for over 26 years. A few old tanks did not qualify it as an oil field. The open space around here was all agriculture land. With the current economic crisis and the pandemic perhaps oil and gas is finished for now. We need to be adapting our energy requirements to renewable sources. We also need to put the health and safety of our people first.

The consequence is that we are now surrounded by a constellation of wells that have moved closer and closer to houses, schools, and playgrounds. The stories began to be reported of a rise in asthma, bronchitis, other respiratory ailments. Questions arose about the occurrence of cancers and heart disease, especially near oil and gas sites or downwind from them.

Pat W., Erie