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River in doubt

Just in case you needed more reasons to believe that methane drilling in the headwaters of the Flathead River is not necessarily a good thing, the Bugle has collected a few recent articles on the horrors of CBM production.

If you live downstream on the Flathead, in Montana, you could wind up like Ned Prather of Colorado;

Ned Prather can’t forget that awful drink of water. He was thirsty the afternoon of May 30, 2008, after he and his wife, Dollie, drove up the dusty, steeply kinked road to their cabin an hour northeast of DeBeque. He went to the sink and filled a glass with water.

“I tipped it up just like this and just started guzzling — like an idiot. I didn’t know it was bad until I drank two- thirds of the cup,” said the 61-year-old outfitter as he retraced his actions that day. His throat burned. His head pounded. His stomach hurt. He felt like he was going to suffocate.

Yes, Ned had a long slurp of good old BTEX — benzene, toluene, ethylbenzine and xylene along with other nasty chemicals that come to the surface during the production from oil and gas wells. Ned’s sweet spring water had become the victim of eighteen gas wells within 3,000 feet of his water supply and open pits of production water uphill from the spring. But, of course, since the drilling companies are not required by law to reveal what is in the witches brew they use to develop their gas wells, the state has not been able to pin down where the pollution came from. Maybe BTEX is just a naturally occurring pollutant in Colorado.

In Pennsylvania, parts of the Monongahela River have become so polluted that it is corroding machinery used in water treatment plants. In nearby homes, “Dishwashers were malfunctioning, and plates were coming out with spots that couldn’t easily be rinsed off.” “The Monongahela, a drinking water source for 350,000 people, had apparently been contaminated by chemically tainted wastewater from the state’s growing natural gas industry.

In New York state; “A preliminary report from a consultant hired by New York City warns that “nearly every activity” associated with natural gas drilling, as proposed for southern New York, could potentially harm the city’s drinking water supply and that while the risk can be reduced with strict regulations, “the likelihood of water quality impairment … cannot be eliminated.

So, by all means, lets do the same thing to the pristine Flathead, a stream that American Rivers called, “…a magical place of exceptional wilderness value that has seen only limited development.” A river that, because of fears of coal and CBM development on the Canadian side of the border, was listed as the fifth most endangered river in the country this year. A river that we could very easily loose forever to development if we fail to keep these issues in front of the people of Montana.


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