Since February of this year, Mayor Calvin Tillman from DISH, Texas has visited—several times—the Marcellus Shale regions of New York and Pennsylvania, sponsored by groups like Shaleshock and other anti-drilling organizations. Mayor Tillman claims that his small town in Texas, north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area, has been contaminated by shale gas drilling. DISH is located in the Barnett Shale deposit. Some of the drilled gas wells are within the city limits, and others sit just outside of town. MDN attended one of Mayor Tillman’s presentations back in February and you can read about my impressions here. It’s a fair statement that Mayor Tillman has been a popular speaker for those opposed to drilling in the Marcellus Shale, drawing sizable crowds.
One of the claims made by Mayor Tillman in his talks is that either local gas wells, or the compressor plants used to pressurize shale gas for area pipelines, or both is polluting DISH and its citizens. DISH is unusual in that there are 11 large pipelines in the DISH area, far more than normally found in a single location (the most in one area for shale gas that MDN is aware of). Odors are coming from the compressor plants, so it’s certainly not a stretch to think that if you can smell it, it may be polluting or causing harm. That was Mayor Tillman’s suspicion, so he used city funds to conduct environmental testing in the DISH area, and separately another organization performed a health “survey” of current and former DISH residents (for free). Problem is, both the environmental testing and the health survey were flawed in their methodologies, which casts doubt on the findings. So the Texas Department of State Health Services stepped in to do a scientific health study using blood and tissue samples.
Agency officials collected biological samples from 28 Dish residents in late January to see whether levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their blood were higher than those in the broader population. “We were looking to see whether a single contaminant or a handful of contaminants were notably elevated in many or all of the people we tested,” said Dr. Carrie Bradford, the toxicologist who led the investigation.*
And what was the conclusion of the Department of State Health?
Texas health officials found no connection between pollution from a natural gas compressor station in Dish, Texas and levels of toxins in the blood of people living nearby.*
The new report from the Department of State Health Services says levels of benzene and other contaminants was no higher in Dish residents than in the nation’s population in general.**
MDN wonders if the now less than credible Mayor Tillman will still be such a large draw when he comes calling again?
*Elimra Star-Gazette (May 26) – Texas gas study finds no pattern of elevated toxins near compressor
**Dallas Fort Worth – Channel 33 News (May 12) – DISH Report: No evidence gas well hurting residents of Dish, Texas