Report: Garfield County air quality ‘good’ |

Report: Garfield County air quality ‘good’

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Garfield County’s air quality in 2009 did not “violate air quality standards” for ozone and certain types of particulate matter, according to a report submitted to the county commissioners this week.

But air quality monitoring is a relatively new exercise for Garfield County, according to environment health director Jim Rada, who said that so far it has shown nothing to be alarmed about.

“Overall, air quality in Garfield County is still good, relatively speaking,” Rada said.

The report, compiled by the Air Resource Specialists firm in Fort Collins, will be discussed at the Dec. 20 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.

The air quality monitoring program uses monitors set up at Parachute, Rifle and Rulison, and monitors for ozone, particulate matters, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and weather variations. The monitoring program was started in response to concerns among residents about the health impacts of the oil and gas drilling industry.

Among the substances covered in the report are VOCs typically related to oil and gas drilling, including the BTEX combination of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes.

Benzene is considered carcinogenic, and the remaining compounds are known to have harmful effects on the human central nervous system, according to published reports.

The executive summary of the monitoring report, states, “At present, air quality measurements in Garfield County do not violate air quality standards for [ozone and certain types of particulates, or dust].”

But, according to Rada, there are no national standards for the VOCs, some of which are considered hazardous air pollutants or HAPs, some of which were detected in the air sampling monitors.

One particular concern referred to in the report is the formation of ozone at the ground level, which is considered a hazardous pollutant.

The report explains that some of the compounds detected “contribute to ozone formation” because they are highly reactive with other compounds found in the air.

Comparing the Garfield County monitoring results with monitors in the Grand Junction area, the report states that some HAPs were detected at higher levels in Grand Junction than in Garfield County, such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, acetone and others.

But the BTEX compounds, the report states, were detected in higher concentrations at the Rifle site than in Grand Junction.

This, according to the report, “may indicate more localized sources for these BTEX parameters, which have primarily gasoline and diesel combustion sources that include motor vehicles, oil and gas development activities as well as oil and gas production equipment such as condensate tanks.”

Rada pointed out that “we’re not inferring here that there’s anything to be scared about. The risk assessment [a second phase of the air quality monitoring work] has not been completed.”

He said he is not certain when the risk assessment report for the 2009 monitoring effort will be submitted to the county .

Rada emphasized that the report indicates that there is a low likelihood of local residents developing cancer or other “noncancer health outcome” such as respiratory or immunological ailments.

As for the fears of those living close to drilling rigs, and worried about the possibility that harmful compounds might be more concentrated, and more harmful at such distances, Rada said, “We just don’t have enough information to understand the health impacts” under those circumstances.

He said the county has been conducting these air quality tests only since 2008, and while there are some indications that the levels of certain compounds have risen slightly, “You need to look at multiple years to get enough data to actually see if things are increasing.”

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