Air Quality Testing Finds Toxins in Ponder

Residents say they believe they are being sickened by what's in the air

By Randy McIlwain
|  Thursday, Oct 27, 2011  |  Updated 7:35 PM CDT
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Ponder residents wonder if a natural gas processing plant is making them sick.

Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW

Ponder residents wonder if a natural gas processing plant is making them sick.

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Air-quality analysis shows the presence of several toxins in the air near a natural gas processing plant less than a mile from a Ponder subdivision.

The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality reports show between seven and 10 toxins testing at or slightly above detectable levels in the air.

The most concerning is benzene, which can produce a variety of health side effects if individuals are exposed to it long term.

Homeowner Debra Owners said her daughter, Cassidy, is experiencing several symptoms despite leading a very active, healthy lifestyle.

The plant has only been in the community for a little more than a year.

Cassidy Owners said she started getting ill continuously about 10 months ago.

"I broke out in rashes over and over again, from little puss bumps to a lacy look all over my body," she said.

Neighbors have complained of nose bleeds and headaches.

Ponder Mayor Scott McCarty said frustration is high as people try to figure out if there's any connection between the plant and health problems. He said he's been in contact with TCEQ, which told him there's nothing to worry about at this time.

"It's not an immediate danger situation if it's a long-term exposure then it could become a big issue," McCarty said.

The gas processing plant is owned Atmos Energy and operated by Kinder-Morgan. A Kinder-Morgan spokesperson for the company said the company has yet to review the air-quality reports but has already used some new technology to limit odors coming from the facility.

The site has also been visited by TCEQ investigators and has not been cited for any violations.

TCEQ described its investigation of air quality in Ponder as ongoing and offered nothing definitive in terms of a connection between the plant and health concerns.

Debra Owens said answers can't come soon enough. She said she is "sick and tired of being sick and tired."


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