Arlington City Council Approves New Gas Wells Despite Vocal Opposition

Arlington city council approved four new gas wells Tuesday night and set a new precedent for how close to existing gas wells new homes can be built. Both decisions have many neighbors in the city worried about added health and safety risks.

This debate has been going on for several weeks at Arlington City Hall and every time a dedicated group of speakers comes out to raise concerns over the potential health and environmental risks of growing the fracking industry within city limits.

You can see it looming through the backyards of one South Arlington neighborhood, a crane and a wall around a fracking site that's too close for comfort to the Reid family.

"It's a scary thing to have it right out your back door,” said homeowner Claude Reid. "Nothing like having a bomb drilled in my back yard."

Right now there are three gas wells on the site -- on Matlock Road near Cravens Park. Tuesday night, the city council approved adding four more there, despite vocal opposition from several residents, many from the group Liveable Arlington.

"I just don't think fracking should be allowed anywhere in a residential zone," said neighbor Kathy Mitchell.

Dr. Cynthia Fincher, a health psychologist, was also among the speakers.

"We feel that our health is being traded for financial gain and that the long term cost of this will be well beyond the short term gain," Fincher said.

She said she worried about the potential for air pollution and ground water contamination through the fracking process.

"These toxins accumulate, they accumulate in the ground, in the water, they accumulate in the human body," Fincher said.

But executives from Total, the gas company running the Matlock site, said they've heard mostly support from neighbors closest to the gas wells, who benefit from mineral rights, adding that they go to great lengths to prevent any contamination.

"So you have seven layers of protection between steel and cement protecting those aquifers to make sure that nothing comes in and nothing comes out of where our production is taking place," said one Total Executive.

Still to those who don't trust the system, Tuesday night's council vote was a blow.

"Wait to see what happens and pray that nothing bad happens," said neighbor Floyd Ostrom.

The council also voted Tuesday night to set a 300-foot buffer for how close new homes can be built to any existing gas wells. It was previously set at just 100 feet.

But opponents still saw that as a loss. They wanted a required 600-foot buffer. That's how far new wells have to be set back from existing homes.

There have been numerous health studies on the potential effects of gas wells in residential areas. One recent study led by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health found that neighbors living next door to oil and gas wells have a higher risk of developing cancer. But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said more testing is needed to confirm that.

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