3 generations of oil and gas contamination

FTS Family Foto 2

L to R: Peggy Tibbetts, Hailey Kwiatkowski, and Ema Tibbetts

It all began with sickness and then the sick of being sickness. Since last fall my daughter Ema, granddaughter Hailey (age 12), and I have been sick – a lot. Ema actually spent a day in the ER undergoing all sorts of tests. Several thousand dollars later (she was uninsured) the doctors still didn’t know what was wrong. Was it the flu? Possibly. Was it allergies? Maybe.

What are the symptoms?
Upper respiratory infections
Swollen glands
Sore throat
Shortness of breath
Itchy, watery, burning eyes

The three of us seemed caught up in an endless cycle of sick with the same symptoms repeating themselves over and over again. The flu season was severe and I’m not a doctor but even I know it’s not normal to keep getting the flu repeatedly. It means there’s something wrong. And in three members of the same family it means there’s something really, really, really wrong.

Years of living dangerously close to the gas patch (since 1996) has taught me what exposure to VOCs looks like. I remembered how sick Ema, Hailey, and I were in February and March last year when Ursa was venting and flaring the wells on Silt Mesa and Peach Valley. Hellish.

I was lucky enough to find Dr. John Hughes at Aspen Integrative Medicine. He said he could facilitate the testing of our blood and urine for VOCs. His nurse took blood and urine samples from Ema, Hailey, and I and they were sent to the lab at CSU. Yes, the same CSU that is currently conducting the air quality study for Garfield County. Testing was done at our expense.

The test results showed the presence of ethylbenzene and xylenes in all three urine samples. Hailey’s blood sample also contained high levels of ethylbenzene and xylenes. VOCs in the blood indicate recent exposure. VOCs in the urine indicate chronic exposure — like workers in the workplace.

Dr. Hughes felt the initial test results warranted further testing of the samples. We agreed and again at our expense he ordered more screening for VOCs. We are awaiting the results of those results.

Ema, Hailey, and I live in Silt, but we don’t live in the same house. We don’t have gas wells in our back yards. We don’t work in the gas fields. We aren’t associated with the oil & gas industry in any way. But our bodies are contaminated with VOCs.

When I had described our symptoms to Dr. Hughes, he said they indicated exposure to ethylbenzene and other VOCs, which confirmed my suspicions. He told me to prepare for the worst. I assured him I was prepared.

But nothing could prepare me for learning that my beautiful, 12-year old granddaughter Hailey’s body is contaminated with VOCs. Nothing.

Hailey Kwiatkowski (age 12)

Nothing could prepare me for the awful realization that when Ema was doubled over from coughing so hard she vomited that her body was desperately trying to rid itself of the toxins from the VOCs. Dr. Hughes calls it “pulmonary distress.” It feels like a nightmare.

We know fracking causes earthquakes. It has certainly caused an earthquake in our family. It takes time to process this kind of life-altering information. On the one hand it’s a relief to know what’s making us sick. On the other hand, it’s infuriating. Along with the positive test results, we’re sick. Where do we go to get our health back?

Who is responsible for poisoning us?

The oil & gas industry, the state of Colorado, and Garfield County – that’s who. By allowing the industry to pollute our air unchecked, the state and county governments have failed to protect our health. If our bodies contain VOCs then surely the workers’ bodies contain VOCs, plus hundreds of residents in Silt.

The air in Silt is so saturated with VOCs it is as though we are workers in the gas fields. We are like lab rats in this grand field laboratory.

And we are mad as hell!

Hear me now, Governor Hickenlooper, Matt Lepore, Larry Wolk, John Martin, Tom Jankovsky, Mike Samson, Ursa, EnCana, BBC, WPX, Williams, etc. I am putting all yall on notice. You thought I was a pain in the ass before, well batten down the hatches. Consider me Category 5 Hurricane Peggy.

Phase I: VOC Results

Phase II: BTEXs Metabolites Results

Sunday morning 3/30/14 -- Looking east from West Rifle -- Click to enlarge [Photo by Ema Tibbetts]

Sunday morning 3/30/14 — Looking east from West Rifle — Click to enlarge [Photo by Ema Tibbetts]

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15 Comments on “3 generations of oil and gas contamination”

  1. Laurie DeMent Says:

    Peggy, this made me cry. I am so sorry I haven’t spoken up more for our children in Silt. I have started to, and I won’t stop. Bless you and your family.
    My family lives in Silt as well. Last year during the intense flaring, my teenager said everyone at Coal Ridge had a cough. I was afraid to speak up and ask questions. I will act in spite of that fear from now on, for Hailey, as well as for my own children.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    We need human testing and we need it now. Workers must be tested. Everyone from New Castle to Parachute who wants to be tested should be tested. Hailey’s test results prove that our kids are at risk.

  3. Carl L. McWilliams Says:

    BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY defines “POLICE POWER” as: “The inherent and plenary power of a sovereign to make all laws necessary and proper to preserve the public security, order, health, morality and justice. It is a fundamental power essential to government and cannot be surrendered by the legislature or abdicated by government.”

    Under the doctrine of “Police Power”; Garfield County Commissioners Mike Samson, John Martin and Tom Jankovsky have the legal authority to fund the laboratory costs of an emergency blood and urine testing for a statistical sampling of residents from New Castle to Parachute. Furthermore, residents of Carbondale could also participate as a de facto “control Group”, all funded by Garfield County Oil & Gas Mitigation funds, which presently total in the tens of millions of dollars in cash reserves.

    That said, based upon Peggy’s family urine and blood tests for VOCC’s the immediate question becomes:

    Is west Garfield County a new type of “LOVE CANAL” brought on by the Oil & Gas Fracking Industry in the gas boom of 2008?

    Dr. Lisa McKenzie and Dr. Theo Colborn are two world class scientists who are qualified to answer that question. I suggest the Garfield County Oil & Gas Mitigation Fund is the appropriate money source to hire these two scientists and that Samson, Martin and Jankovsky are mandated by “POLICE POWER” doctrine to act now and with certainty to protect the health, safety and welfare of WE THE PEOPLE OF GARFIELD COUNTY by funding blood and urine tests Garfield County wide.

    Carl L. McWilliams
    Silt Mesa

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Well would you look at this —
    Toxics Across America: Report Details 120 Hazardous, Unregulated Chemicals in the U.S.

  5. Beth Strudley Says:

    ‘Welcome to Garfield County, Where the Drillers Go Deep, and Everyone Dies’
    (Peggy know’s I’m trying to come up with a new slogan for Garfield County)

  6. Cliff Willmeng Says:

    My name is Cliff Willmeng and I am an RN and one of many organizers that is working on ballot initiative number 75, the Colorado Community Rights Amendment. This amendment would override the law that is being used to sue communities now that have either banned or delayed oil and gas activity. We would like to bring our presentation on that to Garfield County if anyone there would be interested. Contact me and the group at: CoCommRights@gmail.com

    Here is our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/COCommunityRights?ref=hl

    And our website: COCRN.org

    This should be a criminal act what is taking place there. As a community organizer, a nurse, and the father of two kids ages 5 and 4, this is beyond tragic, its intentional, and we hope we can help.

    Cliff Willmeng

  7. Carl L. McWilliams Says:

    Mr. Cliff Willmeng, RN. The Colorado Constitution does not need to be amended, our state Constitution needs to be defended.



  8. Sonja Linman Says:

    Sickened, heartbroken and FURIOUS.
    Collect all data, prepare all research.
    Our representational democracy no longer exists.

  9. Danielle Hensley Says:

    I watched Xiuhtezcatl Martinez from Earth Guardians this morning bring the petition to the COGCC. I am an Ohioan trying to prevent injection wells and drilling in the NE of my state. There are so many areas of Colorado and communities affected. All of those who are in support of their health, land, air, and water….please converge!

  10. Danielle Hensley Says:

    Jake Matter, a commissioner, I think, is on the video record yearning for his colleagues to take a stand for their own health and community well-being. Have things hit home for him? I hope that your family is able to get well, Peggy, and that your gale-force winds rattle the legislators in Colorado.

  11. Tim Jerram Says:

    Totally hats of to you Peggie. All the very best.

  12. Trucker Mark Says:

    Urgent: Tell CO state legislators not to strip local governments of their right to ban fracking

    On a different note, this link is to a petition site hoping to prevent our Colorado Legislature from passing any State law yet this Legislative session to eliminate any chance of local voter control of fracking in this fall’s election. This petition drive is current today, Sunday, May 4th, 2014.

    The fracking industry and its supporters in our Legislature are pushing for this legal change as well as another proposed law that would give the fracking industry eminent domain over surface property owners.


  13. Melissa Wilkins Says:

    Peggy, thank you so much for all your work on this matter thus far. My 4 year old daughter and I have lived in Silt for a year now and have never been so sick for so long with a persistent cough that never ceases even when other symptoms aren’t present. It never seems to go away. I want us tested. I am 8 months pregnant and desperately trying to leave the area before my baby due in May has to breathe one gulp of this air upon discovering this devastating news. Is there something with the college to go and get tested or should I just visit Dr. Hughes at this point?


  1. Many Faith Organizations Deplore Shale Fracking - May 22, 2014

    […] are the faith people in it?  Because of too may stories like this one: “3 generations of oil and gas contamination in […]

  2. List of the Harmed - Fracklist - July 7, 2014

    […] 6020. Peggy Tibbetts, Hailey Kwiatkowski, and Ema Tibbetts Location: Garfield County, CO Gas Facility: Ursa and others gas wells Exposure: Air Symptoms: Upper respiratory infections, swollen glands, sore throat, congestion, coughing, sneezing, earaches, shortness of breath; itchy, watery, burning eyes. ethylbenzene and xylenes in all three urine samples. Hailey’s blood sample also contained high levels of ethylbenzene and xylenes. https://fromthestyx.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/3-generations-of-oil-and-gas-contamination/ […]

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