El Cerrito, CA-- Citizen sampling of air quality near natural gas production facilities has identified highly unsafe levels of toxic chemicals near homes, playgrounds, schools and community centers in Colorado and New Mexico. A new report issued by Global Community Monitor, GASSED!Citizen Investigation of Toxic Air Pollution from Natural Gas Development, details the air sampling results, environmental and public health threats with living amid the natural gas boom.
A coalition of environmental and community based organizations in Colorado and New Mexico collected nine air samples that were analyzed by a certified lab. The lab detected a total of 22 toxic chemicals in the air samples, including four known carcinogens, as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. The chemicals detected ranged from 3 to 3,000 times higher than what is considered safe by state and federal agencies. Sampling was conducted in the San Juan Basin area of Colorado and New Mexico, as well as Garfield County in western Colorado.
“Carcinogenic chemicals like benzene and acrylonitrile should not be in the air we breathe – and certainly not at these potentially harmful levels," said Dr. Mark Chernaik, scientist. “These results suggest neighboring communities are not being protected and their long-term health is being put at risk.”
"My husband, pets, and I have experienced respiratory and other health related problems during the twelve years we have lived on Cow Canyon Road in La Plata County, Colorado. We believe these health issues are related to the air quality in our neighborhood and in the area,” said Jeri L. Montgomery, neighbor of natural gas development. Through the course of the pilot study, neighbors of natural gas production facilities documented chemical odors and sampled the air. Neighbors have appealed to local, state and national government agencies to investigate their air quality complaints, to limited recourse.
"We are very concerned about the total disregard for the health and welfare of the people "existing" near the sickening toxic oil and gas industry dumps located in neighborhoods such as the land farm on Crouch Mesa and the waste disposal facility in Bloomfield that are permitted and approved by the State of New Mexico and Federal EPA,” said Shirley McNall, member of San Juan County, NM Residents Worried About Our Health.
"Experts and agencies recognize more air monitoring is needed, but it's not happening," said Paul Light, co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens. "Rather than wait for the government, we used the Bucket Brigade to collect much-needed air quality information."
The community and environmental groups in the San Juan Basin and western Colorado worked with Global Community Monitor, which trains community members living near industrial operations to run their own “Bucket Brigade” to sample their air. The Bucket Brigade has been used in 27 countries internationally. The bucket uses EPA methods for testing and an independent lab for air sample analysis.
Complaints about air quality have also surfaced in other states around the country, including West Virginia, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wyoming. Little information exists to educate and inform citizens about the chemicals being stored, emitted into the air, ground or water in close proximity to their homes. “People are getting gassed, and they don’t even know what is coming at them. The air monitoring provides crucial information in understanding what families are being exposed to on a day-to-day basis,” said Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.
Federal loopholes in the Clean Air Act allow major corporations to circumvent basic protections that put public health first. US EPA is currently drafting new regulations to control and monitor air pollution from natural gas development. Congress is debating new legislation, such as the Bringing Reductions to Energies Air Born Toxic Health Effects (BREATHE) Act.
As regulation moves forward, GASSED! states that solutions are possible. The natural gas industry should invest in pollution controls to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of chemicals in the air. The report also calls for mandatory air monitoring at all natural gas operations and disclosure of chemicals used in the process to local residents.
In addition, the proximity of neighbors and wells is often too close. The report recommends a minimum quarter mile buffer zone between homes, schools and natural gas operations. This is similar to regulations enacted by Tulare County, CA on pesticide spray and St. Charles Parish, LA on industrial development. The report further states, “As the natural gas industry continues to grow, so will the number of families neighboring and affected by the emissions. Industry and government leaders have a unique opportunity to address public health and environmental issues. For coexistence between communities and gas industry to be possible, chemical exposure has to be immediately addressed.”
The full report can be downloaded at: Gassed! Full Report
Download the Appendix:
Complete Air Samples Results Spreadsheet
Full Air Sample Data Interpretation Letter from Mark Chernaik, Phd