Activists in Karnes County are raising new warnings about the dangers of fracking, saying the Eagle Ford shale boom is threatening their health, 1200 WOAI's Stephanie Narvaez reports.
Environmental activist Sharon Wilson told neighbors in Panna Maria, not far from Karnes City last night that people aren't speaking up because they're intimidated against going against an industry which has created so many jobs and has so much invested in the region.
"A lot of people have filed lawsuits, and settled, and those records have been sealed," Wilson told Stephanie. "It comes with a non disclosure agreement, and that is a gag order. Any air testing, any water testing, those records are all sealed."
Federal and state regulators have generally given fracking in general, and the Eagle Ford shale fields in particular, high marks for safety. The main concern being raised in arid South Texas has been worries about the use of water in the fracking process, but oil industry experts say some drillers are in the process of moving to alternatives to water, such as using compressed air to crack open the shale formations.
But Wilson says there are a number of families who are suffering from health problems due to the secondary impact of fracking.
"One family has a 15 year old son who has intense bone pain," she said. "He wakes up in the middle of the night with no sleep, he has had as many as three nose bleeds a day, he is starting to begin breathing treatment."
She says the side effects of fracking is responsible for long term health impacts, many of which won't fully appear for years.
"Neurological problems, there are carcinogens so there is a risk of cancer," she said. "Hydrogen sulfide can be a deadly gas, and there is quite a lot of that in the Eagle Ford area."
Wilson and other activists are calling on the federal and state governments to do a better job of investigating the possibility of fracking being related to health problems.
The Eagle Ford is currently the most vigorous oil and gas play in the country, with fully one fourth of all oil drilling rigs in use in the United States being used in the area to the south and southeast of San Antonio.
It is thanks to the Eagle Ford and other fracking fields that the U.S. is in position to become a major exporter, and eventually the largest exporter, of oil and refined products in the world, and activists say there is so much money involved that nobody is willing to slow down the gravy train do take a hard look at what it's doing to people who were living in the Brush Country before the oil boom began, and who will be living there after it ends.