Venting in Grimes County Over Gas Leak

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A week ago Tuesday, the lives of residents in the Todd Mission area were changed by a natural gas well explosion. The leak has long been stopped, but local passion is still going.

In the case of Renfaire Drive, the gas has settled after last week's leak, but the signs are still evident.

"Unfortunately, my backyard looks like Ground Zero," said Judith Finnell, whose backyard backs up to the land where the well is.

Even with a report from the Railroad Commission saying there's no lasting environmental damage, and with rains washing some remnants away, she and others still have concerns.

"I plant gardens every year," Finnell said. "We eat things from the ground. I have questions if that's going to be safe. Can I do that? Can I have my grandchildren in the backyard?"

Tuesday night, neighbors -- many of them artists -- painted a picture of thankfulness that things weren't worse, but couldn't brush aside what has happened. Theses are their first steps in repairing their landscape.

"This is where they make their living, and anytime you have a business, you're concerned about it," said Pam Finke, one of Grimes County's commissioners.

When they've filed through their notes, this group plans to send receipts from their expenses incurred to the well company, do research on liability for the damage they see, and even take it to the next level on safety. The word 'crusade' in that sense was talked about.

"They haven't said they're going for blood," said Finke. "They're just going for making things better for other communities."

But they certainly are also looking out for themselves.

"I moved to the woods to live in the woods," Finnell said. "If I wanted to cut my trees down, I would have done it myself."

Tuesday night, Charles Marino, the General Manager of the Italian American Oil Company said that this well and others of his company's would probably be permanently capped. He said the company would come out and till this land when it's all dried out, but that any visible damage in the area is now Mother Nature's responsibility, that she will eventually take care of it, and that he should not have to worry about it.