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Foul Water and Fracked Politics

Foul Water and Fracked Politics

People’s Tribune February 2, 2013 By Cliff

Protest against fracking in Southern Illinois. Crossville, IL, lost their public water supply due to the oil and gas practices. The area now has a water quality of 20 out of 100 in the nation. Photo/Southern Illinoisans against fracturing our environment (SAFE)

By Tabitha Tripp

This article is in two parts. Part two will appear in the March 2013 edition of the People’s Tribune

CROSSVILLE, IL—Driving down a small road in Southeastern Illinois near the Wabash River, we were led to a cornfield atop a hill surrounded by trees. “Down there. That’s where the disposal well was that went bad, and then my well water went bad,” said Steve Combs. Disposal wells are where the oil companies dump flow back, processed “water” used in extracting gas and oil. This was my first exposure to oil fields and the abhorrent practices of extracting fossil fuels and the subsequent trade-off of pollution for profit. Horrible fumes from flares, open unlined pits of oily liquid, sterilized land where spills have occurred and once potable water supplies now tainted with we do not know what. It is too expensive to have Steve’s water tested. What once came out of his faucet free of charge, he now has to pay for. He has no recourse and there no “victims’ rights” with the oil and gas industry in Illinois, if you do not have proof your water was fine before.

The entire area of Crossville, IL, lost their public water supply a couple of decades ago due to the oil and gas practices. The area now has a water quality of 20 out of 100 in the nation. Looking at the old well pump house, across the field from several conventional oil pumps, I just shook my head. How do we even begin to right these wrongs?

A victim of state practices that protect companies, but ignore citizens and basic human rights, Steve Combs, tried numerous times to get help with his water and was passed off from agency to agency. I took the complaint all the way to the Governor’s office in Chicago. I hoped our leading state elected official would follow through, test Steve’s water, fine those responsible, and replace Steve’s well water free of charge, but no.

The Governor’s office handed the complaint to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency who handed it to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources who sent it back to Office of Mines and Minerals. Instead of fixing Steve’s well, the oil company fixed and replaced a different disposal wellhead, which a photograph showed to be leaking. No one stopped by Steve’s house, no one even called. This was a first lesson in bureaucracy and politics, favors and corruption. As Illinois legislators in the state capitol of Springfield, create 2013’s budget, based on income from hydraulic fracking, it gives me no hope of sensibility that any moratorium on fracking will pass in lame duck session.

Asking our state government to seriously look at all the risks; the health effects, the cost to small municipalities bearing the brunt of burden in ways like social services and road repair, before jumping into a Ponzi scheme is a reasonable request. The gas is not going to go anywhere and the market has bottomed out. Why risk our environment for a short boom?

For nearly one hundred years, Southern Illinois has been dealing with fossil fuel, boom bust extraction economies. One would think we would get smart and plan beyond that which leaves our communities devastated, raped and defiled.Is democracy dead?

Contact Tabitha Tripp at



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