For Immediate Release (Thursday, August 25, 2005):
Rev. David Hudson, Family Area Ministry & Education (FAME), 707-554-8450 cell, 202-234-0700, x. 897 (DC through 8/26/05), 903-766-2854 hm.
Gene Collins, Texas NAACP, 432-333-1161
Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Sierra Club, 512-477-1729 or 512-299-5776
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club consists of over 25,000 members.
The Chapter spans the entire state of Texas, excepting El Paso, which
is part of the Rio Grande Chapter.
Located in Austin, the Lone Star Chapter's State Conservation Office
serves Sierrans as their grassroots communications center. We also provide
Sierrans with a full time professional activist staff employed to represent
Sierrans as we fight at the state level to protect and conserve Texas'
diverse and valuable natural heritage.
East Texas Community Remains without Water -
Texas and U.S. Officials Ignore Oil & Gas Groundwater Contamination
( Austin)—White House staff, top-ranking officials of the USDA, and staff of Texas State Senator John Cornyn offered little hope for a drink of water for the people of DeBerry, Panola County, Texas where homes have been without water since June. Reverend David Hudson of Family Area Ministry and Education visited their Washington offices Tuesday and Wednesday in hopes of obtaining USDA Rural Development funds to connect to a neighboring public water system after an oil and gas company polluted the East Texas community’s wells.
This week was not the first time Rev. Hudson heard little concern from public officials .
On August 2, the three-member Texas Railroad Commission voted to dismiss the complaints of Hudson and seven other residents of Deberry who object to the contamination of their aquifer by the oil and gas waste disposal activities of Basic Energy Services. The Railroad Commission (RRC) refused to hear, as part of that motion, citations from an April 2004 report by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) investigators documenting numerous problems with Basic Energy’s saltwater disposal operations in the area. The RRC had previously decided in 2004 that the injection well permit should be cancelled because the landowners, Hudson and his neighbors were not given notice of the application. The RRC also had determined that BES did not have a permit for the "pit" that waste was dumped in. TCEQ inspections showed that the pit had major cracks in it.
Since their water was found to be polluted with various highly toxic chemicals including: petroleum hydrocarbons, arsenic, lead, barium, cadmium, mercury, plus high concentrations of acetone, benzene, and dichloromethane, members of the 50-resident African American community who live on the Texas-Louisiana state line northeast of Lufkin, have been driving thirty miles – which on these rural roads can take forty-five minutes travel time – to buy drinking water at the Walmart in Shreveport.
The people living on County Road 329 have experienced serious health problems.
Rev. Hudson related, “Four people have died of cancer at an early age, one person died from kidney failure, one from a nervous condition, and one from a circulatory problem.”
Rev. Hudson’s nephew, Bobby Williams, Jr., an 18-year old college student died when he was hit on County Road 329 by one of the oil and gas trucks as he returned to college in Shreveport after spring break and an elderly resident, Ms. Maggie Golden died without water in her home this summer.
“The list of chemicals noted by the Commission are caustic and known carcinogens and contribute to cancers and other adverse health conditions,” Gene Collins, the Environmental Chairperson of the Texas NAACP stated. “Health monitoring needs to begin immediately.”
Rev. Hudson traveled to Washington this week in hopes of connecting his community to the neighboring Bethany-Panola Public Water System. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he pursued an application made with the assistance of the nonprofit organization Community Resources Group and a Lufkin, Texas based engineering firm to the USDA Rural Development Division for $375,000 in the form of a grant, a loan, or the combination of both. The USDA Rural Development Division has $112 million in funds remaining for Fiscal Year 2005 that must be obligated by September 15.
Hudson was not optimistic about securing the money after this week’s Washington visits.
He said, “We’re no closer than we were two years ago in terms of getting a commitment to clean drinking water in this poor, rural community in Panola County, Texas.”
For the past hundred years, the Deberry families and their ancestors drank their own well water and enjoyed living surrounded by the natural beauty of the East Texas woods. Now, they want Basic Energy Services to take responsibility for the damage done and return their water, ground, and air to its former state of cleanliness and health .
Most of all at present, in this Texas heat, they want a drink of clean water.
“The civil suit going to trial in Panola County District Court in Carthage, Texas in Spring, 2006 is a long time from now,” noted Donna Hoffman with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club .
“In the meantime, state and federal regulatory agencies should begin doing their job to enforce violations and fines against this company and to provide clean drinking water to the neighbors in Deberry.”