Expert says blown-out gas well a public health risk

They can truck away the oily waste, but they can't seem to get rid of the smell or so said Kennedy Cole, who lives within sight of the stricken well.

"If you were in it a very long time, you would pass out because it's really strong," said Cole.

But it's not just the smell of the leaked hydrogen sulfide gas that's the problem. At a news conference organized by Texas State Representative Ron Reynolds, designed to assure the public that the state says it's safe, a former inspector for the Texas Commission on  Environmental Quality stunned everyone by saying it's not. He explained that small amounts can pose long-term health risks to children.

"I don't think the public has been told the truth, OK," said Dr. Neil Carman, who investigated wells for twelve years. "I've some concern that there was some misrepresentation that was made to the public."

Workers from a Dallas-based company were changing a drill bit while boring a new well in an oilfield when they experienced a blowout. Hydrogen sulfide gas spewed into the air and people in the area complained about a "rotten egg" smell.

Houston Fire Department conducted tests and determined that the levels at nearby homes did not reach toxic levels. But based on Dr. Carman's statements, Houston City Council member Larry Green said they will do more monitoring, but admitted they don't have the power to stop the operation.

"No, we don't, no, we don't," said Council member Larry Green.

But Dr. Carman says there are homes that are too nearby and it's time to stop this operation, at least temporarily.

"Well, I definitely would until they determine just how much hydrogen sulfide is in there and what they are going to do to control it," said Dr. Carman.

Clean up should be completed next week, according to the company involved in that part of the operation.