Doctor Says Drilling Making Air Worse
CASEY JUNKINS, Staff Writer for the Wheeling Intelligencer & News-Register wrote the following article, as published on September 2nd:
During his 30 years practicing medicine in the Wheeling area, Dr. Michael Blatt has routinely treated patients for asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease and other respiratory problems. Blatt believes the natural gas drilling sites and compressor stations scattered throughout the region are going to contribute to more breathing problems in the Ohio Valley, especially for those living in the rural areas with nearby gas operations.
“I have worked in this community for 30 years and I’m very cognizant of the respiratory disease issues that will be compounded by the addition of these emissions to the atmosphere,” Blatt wrote recently in an objection letter to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection regarding Chesapeake Energy’s permit application to emit several air pollutants from the Dytko well pad, located along Stone Church Road.
The “potential to emit” amounts of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other chemicals that may be released at the sites can vary, depending on the type of operations involved, according to legal advertisements posted by Chesapeake. In addition to the pollution from the well sites, Chesapeake also will release emissions from its local compressor stations. One of these is just off the Interstate 70 Dallas Pike exit near The Highlands, while another is in the Sand Hill area near the Marshall/Ohio County border.
Chesapeake confirmed the potential to discharge various amounts of these materials on an annual basis from their compressor operations: carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide equivalent, benzene and formaldehyde. There will also be various amounts of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, acetaldehyde, acrolein, ethylbenzene, methanol, n-hexane, toluene, xylenes and nitrous oxide.
Blatt – who also lives along Stone Church Road near the Dytko pad – has “major concerns about venting these gases from this well pad by the flaring or burn off process.” “Approximately 100 people live within 3,000 feet of this well pad. A number of families have young children and are growing up within 200 feet of this well pad,” he wrote the West Virginia DEP.
“In particular, carbon monoxide of 40.28 tons per year will be produced by this well pad. This is of grave concern because the exposure to respiratory disease and creation of the ozone layer are toxic to lung disease,” Blatt continued regarding the Dytko well.
Stacey Brodak, senior director of corporate development for Chesapeake, emphasized the proposed emission levels “meet the same stringent requirements as any other facility and are within the allowable emission limits.” “We support the role of the DEP to regulate the emissions at our facilities, including asking for and receiving public comments. We trust in the DEP’s ability to evaluate those comments and place them in the appropriate context,” she added.
Even if the emission levels fall within the DEP’s standards, Blatt said public officials need to consider the possible negative impacts. “My major concern is for the health and welfare of the children of Stone Church Road as well as for the elderly who have chronic debilitating diseases as the result of living and working in the Ohio Valley. Exacerbation of this health crisis is, I believe, an eminent danger,” he said.
Chesapeake is also now awaiting a DEP permit to drill on property owned by the Park System Trust Fund of Wheeling, roughly 1,300 feet from Wheeling Park High School. So far, at least 20 individual residents have sent objections to the DEP regarding the well site, as have the Ohio County Board of Education, the Ohio County Commission and the city of Wheeling.
Chesapeake officials have only said they have engaged with the parties affected by the drilling site, including the Ohio County Board of Education members and Superintendent’s Office. They also emphasize the well site will be more than twice the 625-foot legal limit away from an “occupied dwelling,” as defined by state law.
The Associated Press released the following article on September 1st:
Studies on health impacts of drilling seek funds
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A much-publicized plan by two Pennsylvania health companies to study possible impacts from gas drilling is only in the preliminary stages as the groups continue to look for major funding. Meanwhile, a group that has been examining similar questions is starting to focus on air quality, as precise numbers of people who’ve had health complaints linked to drilling remain elusive.
Geisinger Health Systems of Danville and Guthrie Health of Sayre are in the planning stages of examining how people might be affected by gas drilling activity. Geisinger spokeswoman Marcy Marshall said the company has received $100,000 from a local charitable organization and is seeking other grants. The initial funding will pay for the planning stage and some pilot studies, she said.
Guthrie spokeswoman Maggie Barnes said the company hasn’t received any funding or started research. Guthrie will seek future grants and do research in collaboration with Geisinger.
Raina Rippel of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project said their next big push will be on air quality. “We have plans in the works to look at personal monitors people could wear” to detect harmful levels of natural gas, she said. Rippel said there’ve been “dozens” of complaints in the community they serve, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, and some patterns are emerging. But the nonprofit group hasn’t conclusively linked the complaints to nearby drilling.
Until a few months ago, Pennsylvania public health officials had expected to get a share of the revenue being generated by the state’s new Marcellus Shale law, which is projected to provide about $180 million to state and local governments in the first year.
But representatives from Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s office and the state Senate cut the health appropriation to zero during final negotiations, so now the state Department of Health is left with a new workload but no funding to examine whether gas drilling impacts health. A Congressional committee in June also turned down an Obama administration request to fund $4.25 million in research on how drilling may affect water quality.
Bernard Goldstein, professor emeritus at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health, was at an academic conference in Canada on shale gas drilling this week. He says “All I’ve heard here confirms the relative lack of available U.S. funding for the needed health research.”