Texas Campaign for the Environment: News
Dallas Morning News, April 25, 2012 By Randy Lee Loftis
Tests find air emissions of toxic chemicals from gas well
Citizen-funded tests found air emissions of toxic chemicals from a natural gas well at the city limits between Colleyville and Southlake, an environmental group said Tuesday. Some of the chemicals detected during a gas company’s hydraulic fracturing operation in February were at levels higher than Texas guidelines for long- or short-term exposure, the group said.
Private residents of Colleyville and Southlake paid for the monitoring and the analysis by a lab in Richardson. They released the results in partnership with Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Protect, an advocacy group critical of gas exploration’s environmental record.
The gas company whose well the group monitored, Fort Worth-based Titan Operating LLC, did not respond to a request for comment.
“We paid for tests because we can’t depend on the city or the fracking industry,” Colleyville resident Kim Davis said. “The tests confirmed our worst fears, while Colleyville ignored their own tests to let fracking continue. Apparently the city represents Titan and the gas industry instead of local residents.”
Colleyville’s consultant on gas-production air emissions, Kenneth Tramm, pronounced the group’s samplings to be of little use.
“While the intention of the sampling event performed is laudable, the unfortunate result of poorly collected information is often further confusion among the community at large,” Tramm wrote in a nine-page report the city released Tuesday.
Southlake spokeswoman Pilar Schank said the city was working with Colleyville on issues involving the well. The well is in Colleyville but is adjacent to Southlake.
Earthworks said the air emissions occurred during hydraulic fracturing — the process of forcing large amounts of treated water into a well to release trapped gas — and flowback, when some of that liquid returns to the surface. The group reported the results of three air samples taken on three days in February at distances from the well of about 1,100 feet, 1,500 feet and 1,700 feet. A lab identified 13 chemicals and tentatively identified 13 more, Earthworks said.
Wilma Subra, an environmental consultant who has worked with critics of Barnett Shale gas development, analyzed the results. Six chemicals exceeded the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s effects screening levels for long-term exposure, Subra’s report said. One chemical, carbon disulfide, was over the TCEQ’s effects screening level for short-term exposure.
According to the TCEQ, exposures below the effects screening levels should not result in any health problems. However, that does not mean that exposures above those levels necessarily cause harm. Earthworks should have checked its results against the TCEQ’s air monitoring comparison values, which are a different, better-defined set of criteria, wrote Tramm, Colleyville’s consultant. None of the findings exceeded those comparison values.
Earthworks’ results do not indicate how long any of the detected emissions might have lasted, a key factor in determining health risks. Samples taken on Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 found at least one chemical above an effects screening level, but a sample on Feb. 9 found none.
“The TCEQ does not comment on other people’s studies, especially where we don’t have sufficient information on methodology,” commission spokeswoman Andrea Morrow said. “Wind speed and direction, how the facility was operating, how long the samples were collected, etc., have to be taken into consideration.”
AT A GLANCE: Emissions tests in Colleyville
• An environmental group says tests detected air emissions of toxic chemicals from a natural gas well in Colleyville.
• Three air samples were taken on three days in February — about 1,100 feet, 1,500 feet and 1,700 feet from the well.
• A lab identified 13 chemicals and tentatively identified 13 more.
• Six chemicals exceeded the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s effects screening levels for long-term exposure.
• One chemical, carbon disulfide, was over the TCEQ’s effects screening level for short-term exposure.
• A consultant described the sampling as “poorly collected information” and of little use.
• TCEQ has questions about the study’s methodology.