Coitsville, Mahoning County, Ohio
Exposure: Water Contamination – Barium; Strontium; Toluene
Human Health Impact: Removed gall bladder; Numerous surgeries; Grapefruit-sized infection in intestine; Elevated kidney and liver levels; Kidney infections; Body pain; Difficulty breathing; Rapid heartbeat
Loss of Property: 100 percent loss – $125,000 to $0
“My name is Jamie Frederick. Shortly after moving into my home in Coitsville, Ohio, three years ago, I became seriously ill. I vomited on a regular basis and had intense abdominal pains every day. After numerous trips to six different doctors and several emergency room visits, I had my gall bladder removed. Over the course of the next two years, I underwent five more surgeries in an attempt to repair the grapefruit sized infection in my intestines, which ate through to the outside of my skin. I continued to get violently ill, with elevated kidney and liver numbers, kidney infections, pain throughout my body, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, and many other unexplained symptoms. I saw 18 different doctors who continued to misdiagnose me. Our medical bills burned through our savings.
“In the meantime, convoys of trucks and drilling equipment rolled down our once quiet road. The neighboring property owner, who lives out of town, had signed a gas lease before we even moved there. Out of the 62 acres signed off by my neighbor, they felt the best place to drill was right by my home, as close as the law would allow. My husband and I paid $500 for a tier-3 test of our water to establish a baseline before the drilling began. Surprisingly, our baseline tests revealed high levels of barium, strontium, toluene and several other chemicals.
“We researched and dug deeper and discovered that already several wells had already been drilled and were tucked away in the woods that surrounded our home. This was never disclosed to us when we bought the house. It’s hard to say which one of the 25 wells within a mile actually caused the contamination.
“Living through the drilling and tracking phase of the most recent well was terrifying experience. We were given no notice and had nowhere to evacuate. We were subjected to unbelievable levels of noise, like an airport runway. We couldn’t sleep for days due to the explosions. Worse yet, we could feel the vibration through the house from the drilling. The fracking lasted about 3 days.
“Now gas storage tanks and radioactive toxic waste tanks are outside my bedroom window, uphill from a fresh artesian spring on my property. The gas storage tank is hooked up and making a lot of noise. A smell similar to rotten eggs and diesel fumes hangs heavy in the air. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), tells me it is perfectly safe, and that I am in more danger breathing in the air in a parking lot. Sorry, ODNR, I don’t live in a parking lot.
“Our little house, in the middle of the woods, will soon be in the middle of a toxic wasteland, as [Bocor Holdings, LLC] prepares to cut down the remaining trees to put in the pipelines and compressor stations that will eventually connect the wells. We have already had a blowout of at least one well, a chemical spill, and a tear in a waste pit liner. Forty-seven wells, including injection wells, already cover the 12-square miles that is Coitsville, even surrounding the wildlife preserve.
“Our property value has been reduced from $125,000 to nothing. We have nothing left, having spent every penny on water testing, water filtration equipment, medical bills, and renovating a home in which we thought we were going to raise a family. We check our faucets daily with a lighter, hoping it won’t ignite. My dogs and I feel better these days since we stopped drinking the water. My liver and kidney numbers have improved. I have developed kinetic tremors in my hands as a result of the neurological side effects of some of the chemicals.
“The worst side effect is my concern about safely carrying a child. The doctors fear hemorrhaging or death is possible. If I would become pregnant, there is the risk of birth defects due to the chemicals from my water. I will never take that risk. At the time when I was most sick, drinking the most water, per doctors’s orders, I lay on the bathroom floor, night after night, vomiting, thinking I would surely be dead soon. At that time, I did not know what fracking was. Or that I was being deliberately poisoned. But I do now.
“Fracking has devastated my quality of life. I’m calling on our government to stop protecting the gas industry and to start protecting us.”
The issue here is how fast can enough people be educated about the dangers of fracking and its impact on climate change. It will take masses of people demanding action from politicians to offset the huge amount of money that the industry is using to influence lawmakers, states Louis W. Allstadt, former executive vice president of Mobil Oil who ran the company’s exploration and production operations in the western hemisphere before he retired in 2000.
“Something has to wake up the general public,” says Allstadt in a quote from Shalefield Stories. “It will either be education from the environmental movements or some kind of climate disaster that no one can ignore.”
The Mountain Messenger is reprinting excerpts from Shalefield Stories, Personal and Collected Testimonies. For more information, please go to www.enviromentamerica.org or http://thomasmertoncenter.org.