County supports air quality study with $75K

Alex Zorn

Anna Triebel, a field technician for Garfield County Environmental Health, checks one of the county's PM-10 monitors in this 2015 file photo.
Provided / Garfield County |

To better understand the source of toxins in the air known as volatile organic compounds, the Garfield County Commissioners have agreed to spend $75,000 on a study uncovering more information on VOCs, finding out where they come from and why.

Public Health officials say air monitoring data have shown significant decreases in the concentrations of VOCs in Garfield County’s air, but they don’t yet know why.

Sources of VOCs include vegetation, various aspects of oil and natural gas development and production, and traffic.

“We’ve seen decreasing averages for many of our VOCs, but we don’t necessarily understand why that is happening because we don’t have enough information on the source of VOCs,” said Morgan Hill, environmental health specialist with Garfield County Public Health. “This is something that we have recognized as the next step for our air monitoring program.”

Commissioner John Martin called the study the “logical next step” and one that “we anticipated anyway.”

“We knew it had to go somewhere,” he added.

Hill said the source apportionment study “will paint a picture of where VOCs are coming from.” Garfield County Public Health and Colorado State University will conduct the study.

In 2012, the Board of County Commissioners committed $1 million to a study looking at the effects on air quality from natural gas activities in the county.

Hill envisions the data collected from the new study being used alongside the data collected in 2012 to really “paint a picture as to where all this is coming from and what it means.”

Commissioners Tom Jankovsky and Mike Samson were skeptical about the study.

“Garfield County has possibly the best air monitoring in any oil and gas county in the state,” Jankovsky said, indicating that he would want more conclusive results from this $75,000.

Samson questioned whether the $1 million was worth it.

“I have second thoughts and want more pertinent analysis and information,” he explained.

Hill understood the commissioners’ reservations and acknowledged that the study looking at air emissions from oil and gas operations was harder to understand because it was so technical, but added that the study informed a larger picture.

“I think your contribution did lead to a better understanding of oil and gas operations,” she explained.

Ultimately, commissioners decided that more information is better and each supported the $75,000 investment.

“I’m in support of getting information and sharing it with our citizens and the rest of the country,” Martin said. “This is going to identify what we can do in the future to reduce our VOCs.”

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