Mayor Calvin Tillman of DISH, who has led the fight to reveal and contain the environmental damage to his town from the gas drilling industry, posted this e-mail on Tuesday night:
It is with great difficulty that I post this message. There have been many of you that have supported me through our battle to save this tiny community.
Some of you have supported me for several years now. Some of you have donated to the town’s legal fees, and I appreciate that support. However, I am reaching my breaking point in the fight. On the surface it would appear that this tiny community has won the battle, and in many aspects that is accurate. We have greatly improved the noise level, the aesthetics, and apparently the air quality at the natural gas compressor site. If you were to look at many similar facilities throughout this area, you will find that we likely are home to one the nicest, if not the nicest compressor sites in the entire Barnett Shale. However, we are now starting to get some interesting water out of our water wells. There will be more on our water troubles soon. One thing that troubles me is that almost every night the levels spike in chemicals detected by continuous air monitor that coincides with the odor that we have grown accustomed to.
The continuous air monitor shows us that our air is not toxic and in some cases it is good. However, with the nightly spikes and odor issues, I still have concerns. When these odor events happen, I still get the same old scratchy throat and burning eyes that coincides with the odor. That is not the biggest problem that concerns me. The biggest problem that concerns me is that one of my children frequently is awakened with a nose bleed, an this also seems to coincide with the odor. The monitor shows spikes, but none of the things like benzene gets too elevated. It is possible that something that is not tested for is causing the nosebleeds, or maybe this is just coincidence, but it disturbs me nonetheless. Therefore, it is very likely that I will put my house on the market in the very near future to ensure my children's safety. It is very likely that this will cost me tens of thousands of dollars, but I this point I am considering cutting my losses and just moving on. It is very clear that our state agencies are only in existence to protect the industry, not the general public, so in my view it would be best to be somewhere that you do not need to count on these agencies for your protection.
It is unlikely that the house will sell, even at a bargain, and until it sells it will be my primary residence and therefore, I will remain the mayor of DISH. As long as I am the mayor of DISH, decisions will be made as though I will live here forever. I will do everything in my power to continue helping and supporting the citizens of this community. However, if by some miracle, someone was willing to purchase the property, I would then be forced to resign as mayor. This does not mean that I would walk away from this issue completely; it is just that I would not be able to be in the battle as an elected official, which may hurt my effectiveness on the matter.
This option is not set in stone and we could still possibly go in a different direction. There are also a number of questions, such as where am I going to move? Is it worth buying property in Texas, knowing what I now know? How far will the commute be if I can find a place where there is confidence in the air and water quality? So this may or may not happen. It may be that we move into an apartment or a condo, and keep our primary residence in DISH, and just maintain an additional household until the air clears. But currently I am extremely concerned about the health of my children.
There are several things that must be accomplished prior to putting the house on the market, so it will likely be a while before it is listed. In the meanwhile I will be thinking about way that I can stay involved in this issue. It is also very unlikely that I will be able to sell it for anywhere near what it should be worth. My home is modest, but it sits on six acres, is fenced for horses and has two horse barns. I will try to find comparable property outside of the Barnett Shale and compare to what mine will be on the market for. This may be a very good illustration of exactly how bad this activity can hurt property values, if not accomplished responsibly.
I tell you this so that there is no confusion when word gets out that my house in on the market. We have accomplished many things here in DISH; we have built a nice park, finished out our town hall building, and will soon have one of the nicest libraries in this area, and that will be tough to walk away from. I also have a wonderful group of citizens that have been extremely supportive, who I will fight for till the end. All of this talk may be for nothing, but I wanted all of the good people who have helped and supported me to know the story, before the nasty rumors begin. Thanks again for everything, and please know that I will not stop doing the things I am doing no matter what happens.