The fight of small group of people in Northern Michigan against the oil and gas industry. All we want is it done safely and know the health hazards!
Ah, the dreaded pink tape. Just two women who health has been so drastically changed since 2003 fighting the big boys and educating those who want to be educated and even those who don't.
KARNES CITY -- Like beacons, the flares in Karnes County draw attention
to one of the biggest and most profitable oil and gas finds in the
world. Under the light belching from the towers, Mike Cerny takes a puff
of medicine in what is now an empty inhaler.
Cerny and his wife say the inhalers and medicines the family takes now eclipse the royalties their property earns from fracking.
“When you see your son with up to three nosebleeds a day, something’s wrong with this picture,” Myra Cerny said.
At first, she thought it was “time” that was taking its toll on their bodies.
it was coming on too fast, the symptoms," Cerny said. "And others the
same age -- I have a twin sister -- aren’t sharing the same problems.”
But with every bit of gas and oil being extracted, the family
noticed changes in their health. The flares are supposed to burn off
unwanted gases, but the family noticed clouds of black smoke erupting
with the flames.
“We are totally surrounded," Cerny said. "And no matter which way
the wind blows, we’re getting downdraft from one or the other."
Worried, the Cernys contacted the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
In August and September, investigators with the TCEQ visited two
units near their home. The leaking hydrocarbons are invisible to the
naked eye, but are picked up as black smoke with the TCEQ’s infrared
The Cernys said their fears were realized when the TCEQ found the operator, Marathon Oil, was out of compliance.
they’re burning black and not operating right, like we’ve seen here,
you have up to 250- pollutants raining down on your head," Cerny said.
According to TCEQ documents, methane, propane, butane, and hydrogen
sulfides were in the noxious mix. The benzene emissions alone were
reportedly four times over the legal limit.
The Cernys said it was the exposure to Benzene -— a known cancer-causing compound -— that matched their symptoms.
“That’s when we put things together. Well, that’s everything going
on with our health. And we knew it was surrounding us,” Cerny said.
you inhale it, your liver picks it up. And it is really what happens in
the body that makes it carcinogenic,” said Dr. Andrew Brenner, a
neurooncologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San
He said chronic, long-term benzene exposure is dangerous and can lead to blood cancers.
get leukemias, or you can have damage to your stem cells and their bone
marrow. That results in an inability to make their own blood cells,” he
The Cernys said they’re breathing that air around their home 24
hours a day. Now the family worries about their growing boy, Cameron.
like a CSI episode: You picture the chemical going in their fragile
lungs and what it is doing to their body. And you wonder, 'How much
longer do they have?'”
The TCEQ made two recommendations to Marathon Oil: the company
installs an alarm or monitor to make sure the flare is working properly,
and that Marathon reports emissions problems within 24 hours.
The oil company received no fines from the state agency.
“We want out of here,” Mike Cerny said.
The Cernys said they are not alone in their suffering.
other nearby residents were reluctant to come forward, telling KENS 5
they have family working the oil and gas fields. Complaining, they said,
could cost them their jobs.
The Cernys believe the industry may have already cost them their health.
“Death,” said Mike and Myra Cerny simultaneously.
“That’s all I can think. Death,” the worried mother said. “Seeing our son die maybe before us. That’s all you can think.”