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Report finds possible health risks from drilling

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Plans for up to 200 natural gas wells in the Battlement Mesa community near Parachute do pose potential health risks for those living in the community, according to a newly released study.

Garfield County on Monday released the draft report of the Health Impact Assessment, conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health in partnership with the county health department.

The executive summary of the study begins by stating that, “Overall, the citizens of Battlement Mesa appear to be generally healthier than other citizens of Colorado. They experienced fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths” than similar populations elsewhere.



Turning then to data gathered from a variety of sources, including Antero Resources, the company that is planning to drill for gas in Battlement Mesa, the study sketched out possible effects from the activity.

“The Antero natural gas development plan is likely to change air quality and produce undesirable health impacts in residents living in close proximity throughout the community,” the study declared.



The remarks were aimed at the results of air quality assessments conducted by the school, and continued, “Air quality is most likely to be acutely impacted during well pad construction and well completion stages and by truck traffic.”

In addition, the summary stated, “Long term compromise of air quality is possible if fugitive emissions from production equipment are not controlled.”

The impacts, according to the study, could include respiratory disease, neurological problems, and possibly elevated risks of cancer.

The study found that drinking water obtained from the Colorado River is not likely to be tainted by any of Antero’s activities, because the intake for the community is upstream from Antero’s expected areas of operation.

But the community’s “secondary water source … a series of ground water wells located ‘downhill’ from some off the planned [gas] well sites … could be compromised,” by the drilling and production activities.

The study predicts that water quality impacts are not expected to happen “frequently” or that the result would be broad-based contamination of the water supply.

But, should contamination occur, the study concluded, “these changes would produce undesirable health impacts,” including cancer, skin and eye irritation, neurological problems” that may or may not require medical care.

Another potential problem cited by residents is the increase of truck traffic likely to come with the drilling, although Antero has told area officials it plans to rely on pipelines as well as trucks.

Safety, especially for children; noise and vibrations; and lights associated with the project all figured into the study’s general conclusions.

The study document also lays out a number of other potential effects of intensified gas and oil development, including socio-economic improvements to the quality of life among residents. And it makes a number of recommendations for Garfield County officials concerning how it might mitigate any effects of the oil and gas industry on local residents.

The study is available on the county’s website, http://www.garfield-county.com, and under the “County Departments” pull-down menu.

Once on the Public Health home page, go to the “Navigation” menu on the left of the screen, scroll down to Public Health line and under that, to the Battlement Mesa Health Impact Assessment Public Comment Process.

According to Environmental Health manager Jim Rada, the public may comment on the HIA through Oct. 20.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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