Board of Health joins battle over fracking inside city

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Updated: 9/25/2012 2:19 am
City Council's decision to allow fracking within the city has been a source of back-and-forth between concerned citizens and the council. Now, the Board of Health has joined the fight, hoping to find middle ground.

Citizens were invited to their public hearing Monday morning to speak their peace.

"Fresh water supplies in our state are already stressed, we do not need to stress them further," Karen Porter said.

"Take the necessary steps now to stop farther action on the illegitimate contract signed to allow fracking on city property," LeAnn Lamb-Vines said.

However, it was the board members who scuffled over the science and safety of fracking.

"Fracking is done thousands of meters below the ground, thousands of feet below the water table," Dr. Donald May said. "They have good blockage and cement and such around the drilling wells, and there has never been any demonstrable leaking."

"The first study showed that's not true," Dr. Ted Reid said. "The graph showed that the closer you get to these fracking wells, the more contamination comes up into the water supply."

Dr. Reid said he urges the city to move forward with caution.

"Because this is a precious resource that we can't replace," Reid said. "This is our drinking water, and we want to make sure that nothing happens. That ten years from now, or fifteen years from now, or even next year, that we have stuff coming up from deep down underground into our drinking water."

Dr. May said he believes having enough fresh water won't be an issue, it's just a matter of finding it.

"With cheap, inexpensive energy, we can move massive amounts of water, whether it be from the rivers, from the great lakes, from the Gulf of Mexico," May said. "We can move it at extremely small costs, and provide unlimited supplies of fresh water to the United States and the world. And what better place to do it than in West Texas? Where we are the experts on fluid moving, on moving water, moving fluids and so forth."

Secretary of the board Brian Carr said he just wants to make sure there are strong guidelines in place. The Railroad Commission already has set guidelines, or the city could establish its own. He said monitoring is the key.

"And the third one is coming up and insuring that, at a minimum, that we make sure the monitoring process of the oil well operator, that they follow all those guidelines," Carr said.

The board will hold another meeting in two weeks, which will feature experts to help sort through the science of the process of fracking, before making a recommendation to council.
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