Community angry over latest neighborhood addition
HOUSTON The drilling just began in the Summerwood subdivision in northeast Houston, and the people who live around think this is also the beginning of many problems to come. Residents say they expect to see something like it a rural area, but not in the middle of a master-planned subdivision. "The builder, the community stated that his would actually be a park," Jacquelyn Jye said. Instead, among the roof tops is their newest neighbor, a natural gas drilling rig, complete with 18 wheelers that are coming and going in the kid-friendly, master-planned subdivision in northeast Houston. "The noises and the smells, I mean sometimes it stinks like diesel," resident Ruben Garcia said. "In early morning or late evening, I start smelling the chemicals," Jye said. The Ballard Exploration Company Inc. owns the drilling rig. Homeowners say they are prepping two other sites in the neighborhood. The company has erected a sound wall made of fabric to help reduce the noise and the pollution of drilling. Matt Tejada, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston, says natural gas drilling is increasing around the state. Drilling this close to a densely populated areas, he says, can poses health risks, as the well begins to produce. "You don't just get just pure natural gas; you get natural gas and all these condensates, other hydrocarbons with it," Tejada said. "And those hydrocarbons, like benzene or like methane or just different sorts of gases that come from a fossil fuel, they are going to come up with a natural gas." Ballard Exploration, who declined an interview, says the well is not producing yet, and they plan to be there for another three to four months. Meanwhile, neighbors are contacting attorneys to see what can be done about having a natural gas drilling operation in the middle of their subdivision. That. along with health concerns, has not helped their property values. "We wouldn't have bought the house had we known this thing was going to pop up in a few weeks," Garcia said. We spoke with the Texas Environmental Commission on air quality, and they told us they were sending a representative to investigate the complaints. Meanwhile, the Railroad Commission of Texas, who also oversees natural gas drilling, says they have inspected the well and have found no violations. We are still checking with the city of Houston about who grants permits regarding location to homes.