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Frank Roberson and others along CR 329 contend that following a massive pipe leak in Basic Energy’s saltwater disposal operation, many of the trees in the lowlying areas of the Antioch Baptist Church property died. A monitoring well has since been drilled in this area. DeBerry, continued from page 9 EPA began supplying residents with bottled water on what was supposed to be a temporary, emergency basis. Hudson and several other residents filed suit against Basic Energy, asking a state district court to order the company to provide clean drinking water, clean up damage, and pay medical costs of people who drank polluted water. The suit also asked that Basic Energy remove its pipelines and equipment from the area. In court papers, Basic Energy denied the allegations. Repeated phone calls to the company’s attorney were not returned, and the company’s East Texas manager said that he could not comment. As recently as June 2005, Railroad Commission tests found two contaminants under Basic Energy’s disposal site in the area. The same two also showed up in the families’ wells. Two months later the three-member commission dismissed the complaints of Hudson and other residents. Hudson and his attorney, John Stoverhimself a former railroad commissionerused open-records requests to obtain documents indicating that state officials had concluded there were problems at Basic Energy’s site. Early this year, state inspectors wrote that documentation of the company’s cleanup efforts was incomplete and that a new leak had been discovered. “[T]he matter of complete assessment, cleanup and/or control of barium and chloride detected in groundwater remains a concern for RRC staff,” a commission official wrote to the company in January. Meanwhile, Hudson has continued to pursue other remedies. He traveled to Washington, D.C., to arrange a Department of Agriculture loan that would link residents along County Road 329 to a nearby water system. System officials rejected the loan because they doubted residents could pay their share of the bill. “‘Cause it is a small amount of people, we ain’t really people,” Hudson says. “Your life ain’t worth anything.” Former Observer intern Jonathan York is a freelance writer based in Austin. Most people simply give up, lacking the resources to hire the lawyers and experts to take the commission to court. Meanwhile, with the certain backing of an overwhelmingly pro-industry Legislature, the Railroad Commission sits like a stone in a river, calmly deflecting a torrent of complaints and pleas from citizens. Occasionally it will issue a bland news release touting some plan to marginally improve its conservation measures or procedures, but without ever conceding any failures or deficiencies. Even in the DeBerry case, where Rev. Hudson found documents in Railroad Commission records indicating the agency knew about the saltwater leaks all along and failed to act until forced to do so by pressure from other agencies \(the file even included a letter from the admitted fault. Nor is blame assigned to Basic Energy. “They [the commission] will not admit the fact that that contamination comes from that injection well, because if they do, then they have a fight with the company,” says Rev. Hudson. “And they are not going to waste attorney fees on a small community proving our point for us. They’re not going to help us. We’re going to have to do this ourselves:’ Against long odds, another group is also determined to help itself. Carson and her neighbors aren’t giving up. They formed a nonprofit organization to take the Railroad Commission to state district court. “We’ve done everything the RCT has required, and they’ve turned a deaf ear to us,” Carson says. “They’ve essentially said it doesn’t matter what predicament we put you people in, it’s the oil and gas industry that really matters. They simply consider us expendable. But we are going to keep fighting because we have to protect our homes and our lives:’ Rusty Middleton is a freelance journalist who has written widely on natural resource and environmental topics. He continues to collect information on problems associated with injection wells and polluted ground water. He can be contacted at [email protected] . 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 19, 2006