Latest State Regulator Analysis: Garfield Co., Colo., Air Quality Protective of Public Health
Colorado heath regulators are out with new findings, showing yet again, a “low risk of long-term harmful health effects due to VOC exposure” from nearby oil and natural gas development.
The findings from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) are from the air quality assessment in Garfield County, Colo. As part of its continued collaboration between Garfield County health officials aimed at evaluating and addressing environmental and health concerns related to oil and gas development, CDPHE’s ongoing air quality sampling and monitoring near newly developed oil and gas operations in Battlement Mesa, Colo., has again shown emissions to be protective of public health.
The air quality assessment is just the latest government-sponsored report to show “low risk” of health effects from oil and natural gas operations. Importantly, these findings come at a time where anti-fracking activists are attempting to push health-related concerns on the Front Range, with far less data to back up their assertions.
Earlier this month, reports surfaced about fears relating to VOC blood levels in the Erie, Colo. area. Claims were made in the media that living near oil and natural gas development led to elevated levels of certain compounds in bloodwork. As it turns out, most of those claims are being brought forward by a doctor with known ties to anti-oil and gas groups like 350 Colorado, Frack Free Colorado and Food & Water Watch, and was based on a limited sample pool.
Meanwhile, Garfield County has been measuring VOCs since the uptick of oil and gas development experienced by the county back in 2008. The comprehensive monitoring continues to look at 90 different compounds, including “21 hazardous air pollutants (e.g., BTEX and Formaldehydes)” and a number of other VOCs, including highly reactive VOCs which can contribute to ozone formation. All of the county’s measurements are collected and handled in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, according to a recent presentation by a county health official. On the human health assessment side of things, Garfield County contracted CDPHE to conduct a health risk assessment on the county’s air quality samples, with VOC’s being a primary focus of CDPHE’s evaluation. CDPHE looked at cancer health effect risks and non-cancer health effect risks during its analysis. CDPHE’s assessment bottom line results concluded there is “low risk of long-term harmful health effects due to VOC exposure in the vicinity of oil and gas operations.”
For specific VOC’s, CDPHE found the following results:
“Benzene and 1,3-Butadiene were approximately 6-9 times below standard longterm non-cancer health guideline values.”
In addition, CDPHE found the following for over 50 substances evaluated in its assessment:
“All other VOCs were at least 100 times below their respective non-cancer long-term health guideline value.”
And for cancer risk, CDPHE found the following:
“Cancer risks estimates for benzene and ethylbenzene individually or together were within the acceptable risk range of 1×10-6 to 1×10-4 (Table 4).”
Of the quarterly report findings, Morgan Hill, Garfield County environmental health specialist told Garfield County Commissioners during a presentation on Monday the following conclusive summary:
As technological advancements continue in the industry and oil and gas operators continue to respond to concerns from residents near development sites, reports such as this illustrate that positive strides are being made to reduce the overall footprint of the industry and mitigate concerns through thoughtful and industrious ingenuity.
Yet another breath of fresh air on the West Slope – earlier this month the World Health Organization (WHO) reported findings indicating that there’s a “high quality of air to breathe” in Garfield County, according to Morgan Hill, Garfield County environmental health specialist. According to the Daily Sentinel report on the WHO’s particulate matter report:
“WHO’s reported measurement for Battlement Mesa for PM 2.5 is an annual average of 4 micrograms per cubic meter for the year 2014. Hill said the WHO report appears to be based on information collected by the county, and annual averages over the years have continued to remain at or below 5 micrograms per cubic meter.
“WHO recommends keeping that annual average below 10 micrograms per cubic meter, and Hill said the national standard is 12 micrograms per cubic meter.”
Daily Sentinel also reported:
“4,300 communities. And notably, when that spreadsheet is sorted from the cleanest to dirtiest measurement, Battlement Mesa is listed as the 55th cleanest for what’s known as PM 2.5, and 92nd cleanest for what’s called PM 10.”
The WHO report coupled with CDPHE’s health assessment clears the air when it comes to questions of air quality concerns in Garfield County.
EID believes that an honest debate regarding public health concerns surrounding oil and gas development is of upmost importance. That’s why we’ve taken measures to be a public source on this topic through the creation of the EID Health microsite, and through producing reports like the recent EID Mountain States health report, to provide the facts and amplify information provided by our state and federal health regulators. These sources — much like the CDPHE air quality report highlighted in this blog post — are based on hard scientific data. This is a sharp contrast to the scientifically unsubstantiated anti-fracking claims made by others, which unfortunately spread like wildfire through “click bait” headlines and/or social media.