US farmer warns Illawarra of fracking danger

John Fenton urges vigilance over drilling plans.
John Fenton urges vigilance over drilling plans.

Where John Fenton comes from, simply turning on a shower faucet can have deadly consequences.

If the Wyoming farmer forgets to open a window or turn on a fan while he showers, his house could explode from a build-up of gas.

The water is so contaminated with methane, the US Environmental Protection Agency deemed it unsafe to drink.

It is something Mr Fenton and his family have grown to live with over the years, after their 1000-acre property became a popular site for "fracking" in the 1990s.

Within a matter of years 24 unconventional gas wells were established on the property.

"We don't own the mineral rights to our property [so] we don't have any say over who can come on there and drill ... we can't stop them," Mr Fenton said.

"So our land was industrialised, the view changed - they wiped out geological formations - and our privacy disappeared.

"Then we started to see the environmental impacts - our water was going bad, our air was fouled ... they disturbed the soil so the soil was ruined and we couldn't grow stuff there any more."

His then three-year-old son began having seizures, as did several members of his community.

Others developed numbing of the hands and legs, ringing in the ears, chronic fatigue, headaches and cognitive deficiencies.

The 41-year-old has since become a fierce campaigner for the anti-fracking movement, speaking out about its devastating impacts in the US and Australia.

On Sunday he told his story to a Stop CSG Illawarra meeting at Thirroul and urged the community to continue fighting to protect the drinking water catchment from CSG development.

"Don't give up ... you have to really be vigilant and you can't be lazy, you can't be complacent, you always have to be speaking up for yourself [to prevent this from happening to you]," he said.


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