Air Quality Investigation Again Shows No Health Risks Near Colorado School
An investigation conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has once again shown that the air quality is safe around a local school in Greeley and nearby oil and natural gas wellsite.
The Denver Post reported on CDPHE’s findings from its third round of air sampling at that location:
“An investigation into elevated levels of benzene, a cancer-causing agent, in the air near a Greeley school has found no health risks for students or nearby residents, but state officials recommend several measures going forward, including continued monitoring of the site.” (emphasis added)
CDPHE issued a press release discussing the details of its investigation that showed VOCs were below the unacceptable risk limit:
“The consultation evaluated both long-term and short-term health risk, using data from the Colorado Air Monitoring Mobile Lab (CAMML), which measured 25 VOCs in the air for more than 1,900 hours in 2019. The consultation concluded that VOC levels were below those known to result in either short-term or long-term non-cancer health impacts, including harmful effects on blood cells and the immune system. Additionally, cancer risks due to VOC levels were below EPA’s limit of unacceptable risk for excess cancer from environmental exposures.” (emphasis added)
CDPHE’s report is a sharp rebuttal to controversial researchers like Dr. Lisa McKenzie who repeatedly make claims about health impacts from oil and natural gas operations, despite air and water monitoring by agencies like CDPHE demonstrating that these activities are being conducted in a manner that is protective of public health in Colorado or elsewhere.
Greeley is located in Weld Country where nearly 90 percent of Colorado’s oil production is located. The wellsite, in the vicinity of the Bella Romero Academy, has been the target of frequent attacks by “Keep It In the Ground” Activists hoping to shut down production there.
In March, activist group 350 Colorado released a report claiming there was unsafe levels of benzene at the wellsite – a position that’s since been rejected by this latest CDPHE report. Colorado Physicians for Social Responsibility, another activist group, also joined the call for Gov. Jared Polis to halt production.
Extraction Oil & Gas, which operates the wellsite commended CDPHE’s work and said their own monitoring has produced similar results:
“We have been continuously conducting air monitoring at our location that is a quarter mile away from Bella Romero Academy for the last seven months, in addition to CDPHE’s intermittent monitoring. During that time, our results track with what CDPHE describes in the results of their study, which is that there have been no levels of air pollutant that are harmful to health. Due to the placement of our monitors, we can be sure that no unsafe levels of emissions have come specifically from our site.
CDPHE’s report also acknowledged the spike in pollutants on November 5, 2019 that 350 Colorado had used to call for additional air monitoring. Extraction Oil & Gas again pointed that the source of that spike was never discovered:
“In their announcement, CDPHE referenced a pollutant spike that occurred last November, the source of which was never discovered. To this day, no one knows where those emissions originated. However, we believe CDPHE’s results, as well as our own, show our operations are extremely protective of health and air quality in the community.”
The Denver Post also pointed out that the spike from unknown origins was still below harmful levels:
“Health officials used data from the Colorado Air Monitoring Mobile Lab (CAMML) and health guidelines were exceeded one time, for one hour, in the 1,900 hours of sampling in 2019. The measured benzene level, however, was well below those associated with harmful health effects.”
The results of CDPHE’s air monitoring add to a growing body of research demonstrating that, as even activist researchers like Seth Shonkoff have admitted, air quality “near oil and gas production typically measures in concentrations within healthy air standards.”