Air monitoring asked due to worries wells are emitting gases |

Air monitoring asked due to worries wells are emitting gases

Some Parachute residents are wondering if the bad odor they smell is just that, or something more ominous that is causing kids to suffer headaches.

Janey Hines Broderick urged the Garfield County commissioners Tuesday to support the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance in its effort to install an air toxin monitor at Grand Valley High School to determine if natural gas wells in the area are emitting hazardous gases.

The alliance has set a public meeting on the subject for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6, in the Battlement Mesa Activity Center.

Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are also expected to attend.

Broderick, president of the alliance, asked the commissioners to come to the meeting.

Poor air quality has been on the minds of alliance members since 1998.

“With the increase in (natural) gas development, we thought we’d like to have air quality analysis,” Broderick said.

Of concern to the group is the practice of flaring gas wells, or setting fire to the vented gas.

In 1998, the group contacted the health department, which installed a monitor on top of Grand Valley High School that registers the amounts of particulates in the air.

In 2000, gas well spacing regulations in some areas were changed to allow a well for every 20 acres, putting wells in close proximity to homes in the Parachute area.

That year the alliance also took its own air samples at a natural gas wellhead. The toxic chemical benzene was identified in the two samples tested, Broderick said.

“We did the sampling because no one else would,” Broderick said.

Now the group would like to install an air toxin monitor at Grand Valley High School to identify if such chemicals are in the town’s air.

“We smell things. People have called (us) saying their kids are complaining about headaches,” she said. “Whether we can link them to a nearby gas well, we don’t have enough data, but we perceive a problem.”

Broderick has also contacted the EPA, which has a grant program that could pay for an air toxin monitor.

For a request to win merit with EPA, “it has to be community based,” Broderick said. The March 6 meeting is a first step in gathering support for the project.

“We’re also hoping industry will step up as a good neighbor” and help fund the monitor, she said.

Although she does not know the cost of the monitor, it will be pricier than the particulate monitor, she said. In addition, sampling will also have to be included in the cost. As a comparison, the two air quality samples taken by the alliance in 2000 cost $1,000 to process, Broderick said.

“If there is a problem, it would be wonderful for the data to reflect that. And if there isn’t, it would be wonderful if the data reflected that,” she said.

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