Fire from the faucet


"Shock" and "terror:" that's how Colorado resident Amee Ellsworth feels about her tap water. The stuff stinks, it causes strange sounds in her toilet and washing machine; and worst of all, she's afraid it'll blow up her house. When she turns on her kitchen faucet and flicks a lighter, foot-high flames leap from the tap.

Ellsworth lives in Fort Lupton, in Weld County, home to nearly half of all active oil and gas wells in the state. Eight of them are clustered near Ellsworth's home, and at least one of those has apparently been leaking methane into her water supply. Plenty of folks may think about the collateral costs of our collective appetite for fossil fuels, but Ellsworth -- along with a handful of neighbors who've learned they too can light their water on fire -- is being forced to foot more than her share of the common bill.

You can watch a video of the flaming faucets here.

Ellsworth just moved moved into her home in August, but probably won't be moving out anytime soon. Somewhat understandably, she expects to have trouble selling the house. Anadarko and Noble Energy, the companies that own the nearby wells, have offered to filter her water, but that won't do anything for the methane she thinks might be permeating her garden. When her strawberries ripen in a few months, she may decide not to eat them. In the meantime, she'll keep bathing in the dark, with the fan off, afraid a spark will ignite the gas spilling from the shower head. And she'll play it safe in other ways as well. For example, when a grass fire recently approached her house, she almost reached for a garden hose.