Fracking-related house explosions, suicides, miscarriages and baby deaths in Faulkner County have been hidden, according to locals who met with human rights reporter Deborah Dupré in Greenbrier last week on her Vampire of Macondo national book tour.
“I’ve had the rashes, the nosebleeds, my tongue has bled shortly after the fracking process began on those wells,” said Dirk Deturk at his home in Greenbrier where he resides with his wife, Eva.
Dirk chairs Faulkner County Concerned Citizens Advisory Group (CCAG), formed to protect locals, mainly from fossil fuel industry’s abuses through hydro-fracking Fayetteville Shale.
“We’re surrounded by 14 wells within two miles. Within a thousand feet, there are six of them,” Dirk said, later describing alarming numbers of related suicides, miscarriages, babies dying and house explosions.
During Vampire of Macondo book signings on Jan. 29 and 30, other CCAG members added to the list of local fracking industry extreme rights abuses against residents and workers: abnormal bleeding, passing out, insomnia, respiratory and neurological diseases, rashes and boils, and over 1400 earthquakes.
Most of those abuses are covered up, officially unreported and tracked to the fossil fuel fracking industry in Faulkner County, according to CCAG.
(Watch Special Report: Fracking house explosions, suicides, miscarriages cover up video below.)
Image: Property of woman goatherder, where nearby fracking and hydrogen sulfide was detected, remains as it was in March when she committed suicide after almost all of her 200 named goats and dog died.
Fracking Fayetteville Shale is touted as an economic boom for Arkansas communities such as Faulkner’s. Overbalancing these dubious financial claims, however, are human costs of abused health, safety and security rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed by the United States.
CCAG’s accounts strongly reflect government, oil- and gas-drilling and coal-mining industry abuses hidden and haunting Americans across the nation, from the Gulf coast, where BP’s oil and Corexit slowly kills thousands of people, to Louisiana’s historical collapsing salt dome “sinkhole,” to other fracked communities.
Few, however, have defended fossil fuel victims as successfully as Faulkner County, Arkansas concerned citizens have. They stopped much of the fracking there.
Fibromyalgia, neurological disorders, insomnia and other disastrous effects
For over two years, April Lane, Faulkner CCAG’s treasurer, has witnessed what she calls fracking’s “disastrous negative effects.”
Fracking fluid uses up to 600 chemicals, including carcinogens and toxins. Much of its flowback water, also containing organic toxins and radioactive waste, is injected, untreated, into deep wells, triggering earthquakes and poisoning aquifers. The gas extraction, processing, and transport involve fugitive emissions of many poisons into air, soil, and water.
When fracking started near Beverly Langford’s home, she began suffering “night spells,” severe respiratory effects, and, along with everyone else in the home, had to medicate for severe insomnia, according to April.
“She ended up getting fibromyalgia and having nervous spasms in her body,” stated April. “She reached out to state agencies and every legislator she could think of for help to no avail. Nobody came to help – until after the drilling ceased.”
Then, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality tested and reported air at Langford’s home was clean, according to April. By then, however, Langford had lost energy to battle.
“We’re here to continue that fight for her,” April said, referring to CCAG’s mission.
Goat lady and other fracking-related suicides
“I’ve had squirrels on the porch that have lost their tails, lost hair, [had] tumors, died,” stated Dirk. “We’ve had deer at the feeders that were all skin and bones.”
He and Eva have also found dead Cooper’s hawks in their yard. Down their rural road, the Deturks neighbor happily raised her approximately 200 goats, knowing each by name. That peace turned to hell.
“In 2008, they drilled a well right behind her house,” recounted Dirk.
Hydrogen sulfide detected at that well stopped production. Each year thereafter, however, the woman’s goatherd dwindled. Dying one by one, each death was a tragedy for the woman.
Shale-gas area dairy operators in at least four other states have also reported goat deaths. Goat milk is more like human milk than any other animal’s.
After the drilling, the goat-herder, “always looked really bad,” said Dirk, prompting him to stop by one day to give hydrogen sulfide information to her. She watched her beloved goats die, one by one. Eventually, she only had 30 goats and her large white dog that herded.
In March, a car hit and killed her dog in front of her house.
“She committed suicide with the dog right there on the side of the road,” Deturk recounted.
CCAG listed other locals who suicided after fracking ruined their lives.
Houses explode, burn to ground, keep burning
House explosions of “officially unexplainable origin” near fracking industry construction have occurred in Faulkner County, according to CCAG secretary and occupational safety and environmental health specialist Emily Harris.
“Four houses mysteriously exploded and burned to the ground,” Deturk said.
“The houses would catch fire very rapidly, without a lot of explanation, and some of them would continue to burn past the point you would think a house should, as though there was still a fuel source involved,” stated Harris. “And that’s happened a number of times but not reported or tracked as such.”
Deturk suspects one was filled with methane and “something torched it electrically, a spark of some kind.”
Driving by two other bare lots where houses had exploded and burned to the ground, he pointed to one, saying, “It also had a fuel source in the middle of the house. It burned three days.”
Animal rescuer and animals suffer neurological disorders
Animal rescuer Tracy Wilson has suffered severely from Fayetteville Shale fracking, according to CCAG’s treasurer, Emily Lane.
“Many of her animals lost hair and had neurological problems,” Emily said.
Wilson had to sell or give away all of her animals because their exposure was too high.
Staying home most of the time, her exposure to fracking poisons is fairly constant, according to Emily and other CCAG members.
“When they’re actually fracking, she can go outside and boils will come up on her skin immediately. She’ll have rashes,’ stated Emily.
Aside from nosebleeds and skin disorders, in 2011, she passed out, fell down the stairs and has had two surgeries for a broken foot.
“There are some very immediate effects in these areas,” added Emily, describing a visit by Wilson’s parents, who live outside the area.
“When they were there visiting, they all had nosebleeds at the same time.”
Health and safety hazards fracking workers encounter, energy independence myth they espouse
Individuals’ stories make powerful examples, but the many fracking workers being poisoned also needs to be told, noted Harris. Many fracking workers are less able to understand dangers, she says.
“I fought in Iraq and fracking will bring energy independence for our country,” some veterans say, implying American youth will not have to sacrifice their lives for fossil fuels, and ignoring millions of foreign nationals the US have killed and maimed for oil and gas.
That claim also ignores that: 1) The fossil fuel industry will kill thousands more Americans at home, and 2) The U.S. will not have energy independence, because Big Energy is exporting much of its fossil fuels for bigger profits. High-pay, high-risk fracking industry workers seldom know how to protect themselves from toxins, according to Harris, and companies deprive them of safety gear, according to Deturk.
In absence of renewable energy’s safer jobs, workers frack and suffer the consequences. Their medical treatment has spiked, added Harris.
The fracking industry also requires working 80 to 90 hours weekly, and if workers cannot keep up, they lose their jobs, and the healthy worker effect takes place, she explained.
“The exposures are so dynamic and each person’s individual ability to be able to process toxins are also different,” Harris said. “When they reach that point of no return, then they’re simply not able to work any longer and they’re no longer considered part of that workforce.”
In other words, only relatively healthy workers are counted for reports.
“We know for sure that the number of emergency room injuries and trauma related to the industry, the illnesses… are not being reported as such.”
Grain alcohol remedy
Why don’t all workers suffer severe health effects that residents do in fracked areas? A theory began evolving near Thanksgiving when Wilson lost one of her big rescued cats, explained Detruk, a retired engineer.
“The blood testing came back that it was anti-freeze,” he said. “Well, the cat wasn’t exposed to antifreeze.”
Antifreeze is, however, an ingredient used to frack, as admitted by industry, according to Deturk. Veterinarians recommended grain alcohol to treat Tracy’s anti-freeze poisoned animals.
“And it seemed to have worked,” he exclaimed.
For three years, when a fracking man camp with a couple of thousand men in it was up his way, weekly, Deturk saw trailer-loads of alcohol heading north to the camp.
“I followed it to the man camp twice,” he said. “That would explain some of why the workers are not as sick as residents, if they drink a lot at night or on the weekends. If you’re using grain alcohol to treat animals, wouldn’t that do the same for humans?”
Deturk’s hypothesis is solid, according to Harris.
“It makes perfect sense as far as the enzyme’s reactions within the body, as far as counteracting toxic levels,” she said.
Poisoned food chain, miscarriages, infant mortality: ‘God’s way’?
Dirk and Eva say miscarriages, still-borns and babies dying two or three months after birth are occurring in areas near fracking operations. After a local family’s baby was diagnosed with a rare disease and given only months to live was on local TV news, Eva Dresearched where the family lived. She found that the baby’s home was surrounded by fracking developments.
Although scientists have not identified exact cause, many rights defenders suspect hydro-fracking chemicals are poisoning animals through the air, water, or soil.
Deturk says he knows fracking poisons are in livestock there. He explained that when humans consume poisoned livestock, that poison becomes 100 times stronger, and poisoned livestock babies get 1000 times more poison in breast milk.
“That explains why young cows a month old die, or there are miscarriages,” he said.
In November, 17 cows in Louisiana died after an hour’s exposure to spilled fracking fluid, according to veterinarians Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, who recently co-authored the first peer-reviewed report linking fracking to food animal illness.
These exposed livestock “are making their way into the food system, and it’s very worrisome,” says Bamberger.
Fracking poisons are bioaccumulating in humans in Faulkner County, Deturk said, listing local young women who’ve miscarried and whose babies died, some within a same family, all living near injection wells.
“It’s related to the air. I’m sure it is,” asserted Dirk, who has urged those women to go public with their reproductive health traumas.
Instead, he hears the miscarriages, still-borns and infants dying are “God’s way.”
“We’re in the Bible Belt and they think, ‘God intended that to happen. It can’t be the gas well across the street. It’s God’s way.’”
“I don’t accept that,” asserted Deturk. “If something’s wrong, you’ve got to do something about it.”
Over 1400 manmade quakes in 8 months
April Lane has added incentives to be a fractivist: her son Lincoln, 3, and trying to protect him from manmade earthquakes. Until the fracking boom, quakes were rare in Faulkner County. In only eight months, over 1400 earthquakes occurred there last year alone. April recounted being in bed with Lincoln when a 4.7 quake jolted them and her husband yelling, “Get Lincoln!”
“I grabbed him and rolled out of bed and ran to the door,” she said.
“That feeling of helplessness and that feeling of not being able to protect him has really stayed with me,” said April, adding, “especially after finding out it was the injection wells and it is the fracking and the natural gas extraction that did cause the earthquake.”
“I’ll never get over that,” she said. “I’ll never be able to feel safe and look to my government and local industries and feel like they’re doing the best they can to protect me, because they’re not.”
Copyrighted 2013 Deborah Dupré
Human Rights news reporter Deborah Dupré is author of “Vampire of Macondo, Life, crimes and curses in south Louisiana that Powerful Forces Don’t want you to know,” packed with censored stories about the BP-wrecked Macondo Prospect in the Gulf of Mexico that continues causing catastrophic human and environmental devastation.
See the “Vampire of Macondo” book trailer, “First book to reveal BP Gulf Oil Human Rights Abuses.”
Follow Dupré on Twitter @DeborahDupre. For radio and television interviews, email info@deborahduprecom.