A recent investigative report from the San Antonio Express News has brought attention to what seem to be a series of mysterious health problems that have developed in the years since the Eagle Ford Shale’s unprecedented oil and gas boom. Many people in the area have been suffering from a number of ailments, a number of flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, body aches, fever and the like, even though they don’t have the flu. Also common are symptoms like nosebleeds, eye redness, rashes and cramps in various parts of the body, including the stomach, legs and sides.
Much of what is now the Eagle Ford Shale oil field was once a quiet rural 26-county area; mostly quiet, with few people and even fewer industrial areas. But the oil and gas boom changed things very quickly. Before the people in the area realized it, the area became a champion oil producer. According to the report, Eagle Ford pumped its first 1 billion barrels of crude oil in the third-shortest time on record, with only the Alaska North Slope and Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar field producing oil faster.
One major concern has been the frequency of potentially toxic emissions coming from plants that experience blowouts. One example they discuss in depth is a massive blowout from an Encana plant in Karnes County. It didn’t produce a fire or injuries, but pipes did burst, blowing water and oil over a three-mile radius. Also, people had to be evacuated to a company-owned hotel in Karnes City, about an hour from San Antonio, for a time. In addition, the blowout shut down several roads in the area and prevented area residents from checking on livestock and pets. In all, it took specialists from Houston more than 28 hours to get the blowout under control.
It is estimated that more than 4,000 barrels of crude was released in the area, according to estimates provided to the Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) by Encana. In addition, natural gas and production water was blowing from the well, and the Texas Department of Environmental Quality estimates that that single blowout produced an estimated 860,000 pounds of contaminants into the air, including iso-butane, n-butane, hexanes and propane, as well as the oil. Officials from the state of Texas described the area surrounding the blowout as a “brown, dead zone.” That was all from a single blowout. According to the TRC, there have been 221 such blowouts in Eagle Ford since 2006.
The report notes that the TRC, which is charged with investigating blowouts, took almost a year to penalize Encana for the blowout, a total of $17,500. There are numerous instances like this, but state agencies that are charged with keeping the public safe are also under pressure to keep oil interests happy because they provide billions of revenue per year. Continually, environmental impact studies are conducted and they come back clean, despite the fact that some people in these areas suffer from health problems.
It is clear that oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale has led to a series of problems. The massive amounts of people and traffic have led to negative effects in that direction, but if these operations are creating health problems for the people living near these plants, something has to be done.
If you or a loved one has become sick and you live in the Eagle Ford Shale region or anywhere else in Texas, and you believe a possible cause of your illness is oil and gas activity in the area, please contact the experienced and knowledgeable Texas Oil & Gas Industry Injury Lawyer at The Hill Law Firm as soon as possible, so that we can investigate and help you to protect your rights.