Note: Video of story at bottom of this page
A Silt Mesa resident has turned her property into a veritable billboard,
protesting the gas pads that have begun springing up near her home with
little to no warning.
“One day, this convoy of trucks just
starts rolling through,” Beth Strudley said, standing outside her home
and motioning to the new gas pad in the distance. “They started
drilling and after 11 days, they were already ‘fracking’. That’s how
quick they were.”
It was just the first of several gas pads
Denver-based Antero Resources would start constructing in the area. In
response to Antero's operations in her backyard, Strudley began putting
up large signs all over her property. A large white banner proclaiming,
“Antero is going to poison our water,” with an ominous black skull and
crossbones sits in her front yard. Smaller signs that say, “We are
terrified of what Antero is doing to our water, air and land!” stand
next to the street. The messages “FRACKING KILLS” and “ANTERO=POISON”
hang in the windows.
“I’m going to protect my family no matter
what,” Strudley said. “I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll tell my message
to whomever I can, and hopefully someone will listen.”
says it didn’t take long for her family, neighbors, and even herself to
become seriously ill from the gas pad. She says for the past two weeks,
flames reaching 50 feet high have been spewing from on of the pad’s
“It smells like burnt chemicals,” Strudley said. “I
don’t know what they are, but they stink. We get really scratchy
throats, really sore eyes, and rashes from it. One of my neighbors is so
sick she can’t leave the house.”
Strudley says her family
immediately stopped using tap water when the first Antero truck arrived.
The family has instead been living off of delivered water jugs and even
installed an expensive new cistern to start hauling in water.
says soon after drilling began, Silt residents received a letter from
the town warning them that their drinking water was contaminated with
high levels of a chemical called total trihalomethanes. The letter says
TTHMs form as a result of adding chlorine to drinking water.
were at a lecture this past weekend and found out sometimes gas
companies inject chlorine into the ground before they frack,” Strudley
said. “I don’t know why, but we just thought it was very coincidental
that this letter came out right before Antero started fracking.”
Strudley is rallying neighbors on the Silt Mesa along with residents in
Battlement Mesa, where Antero has also started building well pads near
homes. Strudley has even ordered t-shirts and pins--anything, she says,
to get her message out.
Additional story at The Post Independent
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.
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
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.
started creating and erecting the signs “when we saw the bulldozers
clearing an area for the drilling,” said Beth Strudley on Sept. 22.
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.
When concerns run deep
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.
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.
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.
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.
officials could not be reached for comment about the analysis or other
issues raised in this story, but Strudley commented hotly, “How can that
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,
“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.”
The anger flows
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 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
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.
that have [gas] wells [on their properties] are getting royalties, and
they‘re not interested in talking about this,” she said with some anger.
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.”