Toxic emissions in Garfield County?
September 23, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Current data suggests that there is an “acute problem with toxic emissions” from natural gas development, which could signify an “emergent problem for the health” of Garfield County residents, a recently released report said.
A group of seven researchers from the University of Colorado-Denver and Colorado State University said in a report that there are “major gaps” in the past assessment of air and water quality associated with oil and gas development on the Western Slope.
But “air and water quality studies conducted to date indicate that potential exposures to hazardous emissions exist” for Garfield County residents, the report said.
The researchers also said there is an “immediate need for specific information on exposures and the impact from oil and gas development on all aspects of human health.”
The group of researchers also called for further monitoring, and for oil and gas companies to release water and air quality data that may have been collected but are not in the public domain.
“Basically, the little information that there is demonstrates that there is reason for concern and for further data collection,” said Roxanna Witter, a clinical instructor at CU Denver’s Colorado School of Public Health and one of the lead researchers on the report.
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Witter said she and the others who worked on the report focused on Garfield County because the area has seen the highest jump in drilling permits in recent years.
Because of the concerns for county residents, the researchers have called for the implementation of a health impact assessment to be completed before oil and gas development near populated areas.
Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Carbondale and Pitkin and Eagle counties have asked for a health impact assessment to be included in the BLM’s Glenwood Springs and Kremmling Resource Management Plan revision, according to a previous Post Independent report. The plan is expected to affect oil and gas industry activity on hundreds of thousands of acres of Western Slope land for 10-15 years.
The group of seven researchers reviewed completed studies in the county, along with a review of publicly available health data, to prepare its report. The Natural Resources Defense Council paid the University of Colorado-Denver for the report and a literature review that was prepared in connection with it.
The studies the researchers looked at included air sampling conducted in the county from 2005-07 along with its associated health risk assessment.
Results from the 2005-07 air sampling indicated that “local populations may be exposed to chemicals at levels hazardous to health,” according to the recently released report. Benzene, a known carcinogen, was identified at levels of concern at 12 of 14 sites and at seven of eight oil and gas sites, the report said.
Another study researchers looked at is a nearly finished human health risk assessment done by Mesa State College and the Saccamanno Research Institute at St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical Center in Grand Junction. Other studies the researchers looked at included a county water study released in 2006 and ozone monitoring in the area.
Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO