Book chronicles life in Colorado’s gas fields | AspenTimes.com

Book chronicles life in Colorado’s gas fields

John ColsonGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A newly published book takes sharp aim at the natural gas industry in Garfield County, providing readers with a very personal look at what the author and others say are the potentially deadly health effects that come from living close to gas derricks and wells.The book, titled “Collateral Damage,” is the story of a five-year effort by Garfield County resident Tara Meixsell, along with others, to publicize the issue and their perspectives.Told in the format of a personal journal, with excerpts from newspapers, magazines and other media, the self-published book is more than 500 pages long, contains 23 chapters and boasts a number of photos.Meixsell, it should be noted, does not live immediately adjacent to derricks or wells. In the book she mentions experiencing relatively minor symptoms from one day’s worth of exposure to the fumes that come from drilling activities.But she says that she has come to know many people who have reported serious health effects from living close to drilling rigs and evaporation ponds containing potentially toxic chemicals.Doug Hock, spokesman for EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), said he had not heard of the book and could not comment on its contents.The book is filled with the names of the people who have been telling state and local officials for years that their lives are being ruined by the industry – names such as Chris Mobaldi, Laura Amos, Karen Trulove, Dee Hoffmeister and Rick Roles.Among the symptoms reported by humans from breathing in the fumes are headaches, nausea, extreme fatigue, nosebleeds and pain in the joints, hands and feet, according to Meixsell’s account.Her book also tells of birth deformities in livestock that live near the well fields, such as goats that gave birth to vacant sacks of water instead of healthy kids, and cows whose calves are so deformed they cannot walk properly.The industry maintains steadfastly that there is no proof of a connection between the fumes around gas drilling facilities, or the chemicals injected into the ground in the hydraulic fracturing process, and the health effects reported by neighbors.The industry’s critics counter that no one has ever done a thorough study of the issue.Meixsell started work on the book in 2003.The idea for the book was inspired by a friend, Chris Mobaldi, who lives in the Divide Creek area.By the winter of that year, Mobaldi reported that she had begun experiencing debilitating headaches, dizziness and severe pain in her joints. The Mobaldis, whose homes were surrounded by gas wells, ultimately moved to Grand Junction to get away from the drilling activity that they blamed for Chris Mobaldi’s health problems.Working at night and on weekends while still holding down her paying job, Meixsell wrote that she “spent almost four years” writing down her thoughts, conclusions and fears, eventually compiling the book that was published in June.She also has written magazine articles; appeared in the documentaries “Split Estate” (for which she acted as an advisory consultant) and “Gasland,” both about the gas industry’s impacts on Garfield County (which Meixsell tartly calls “Gas-field County”); and has testified before state committees about the phenomenon, among other efforts.A resident of Garfield County since 2001, Meixsell moved here from a ranch in the Alma area with her husband, Al, whom she said is supportive of her work but is not an active participant.Concerning her attitudes toward the industry, she said, “I’m not anti-natural-gas. We need natural gas, obviously, but we shouldn’t be killing people to get it. These people are passing out, they’re getting sick, they have cancer.””Collateral Damage” can be found at the Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites.jcolson@postindependent.com