Friday, August 26, 2011

Air Contamination Sampling in Texas Town Reveals Wide Disparity

 By: Duane Craig

Dish, Texas, pops up regularly in articles about hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking. The town got its name in 2005 when the satellite television service, Dish Network, offered all 200 residents free television if the town changed its name from Clark, to Dish. So, they did.

The same year Dish residents also said yes to fracking and things have changed some since. By 2010 there were 15 wells inside the town’s limits and residents were complaining about noise and awful smells, according to this article in U.S. News Science edition online. According to this article at they also started having blackouts, headaches and livestock going blind.

When the town hired an environmental consultant who took samples August 17 and 18, 2009, the air had neurotoxins, carcinogens and benzene. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s, Toxicology Division reviewed those independent testing standards and results, and found:

“-The highest potential 1-hour maximum benzene concentration is below the health effects level observed in short-term animal and human studies; however, it is possible that adverse health effects could occur from exposure to this concentration. It was not possible to determine if residents were exposed to this concentration of benzene based on the information provided.

-The Toxicology Division (TD) is concerned that the monitored concentrations of benzene at several of the sampling locations could pose a long-term health risk to residents in the area if the concentrations are representative of normal and prolonged ambient conditions.

-Several monitored and potential 1-hour maximum concentrations of target compounds and tentatively identified compounds (TICs) could have resulted in odorous conditions. Persistent or recurrent exposure to levels which significantly exceed the odor threshold may cause odor-related effects such as headache and nausea. This is consistent with citizen reports of odors in the area.

-The TD strongly recommends additional sampling in the area.”

So, TCEQ took air samples at 12 locations in and around Dish, according to this TCEQ report, and released the results in late 2010 summarizing, “All reported target carbonyl concentrations were either non-detect or below their respective short-term air monitoring comparison values (AMCVs) and are not of any short-term health or welfare concern.”

Some might wonder, why the big difference? To understand that, without calling into question motives and techniques used by those doing the sampling, you have to consider the tests were done more than a year apart, at different times of the year and potentially when there were variations in the use and maintenance of the gas compressors, now the main part of the natural gas extraction process there.

For example, TCEQ took its samples November 6 – 10, 2010 when temperatures ranged from 56 degrees F to 74 degrees F. with winds averaging between 3 and 16 miles per hour. The independent sampling was done in August 2009 with temperatures ranging from 77 to 98 degrees F. and wind speeds averaging 9 miles per hour with 20 miles per hour gusts. TCEQ used two vans having automated carbonyl analyzers spending about an hour at each sampling location, while the independent report placed collection canisters and then picked them up 24 hours later.

Dish sits in a large pocket of natural gas fracking operations over the Barnett Shale formation and by some accounts more than a few people got rich from oil and gas drilling. Time will tell if the money was worth it.

No comments: