DEP's overdue Marcellus Shale air study finds few health risks

July 20, 2018

A much-delayed state air monitoring study meant to gauge the long-term health risks of living near Marcellus Shale operations found limited impacts to the air quality around the sites it examined and little risk of healthy residents getting sick from breathing the air nearby.

The study by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection was based on continuous and weekly sampling over more than a year at four sites surrounded by natural gas wells, compressor stations and processing facilities in Washington County in 2012 and 2013.

It found generally better air quality there than at more urban comparison sites in Washington County and similar levels of hazardous air pollutants at a background sampling site at a rural fruit orchard in Adams County, well outside of the Marcellus Shale drilling region.

But problems with the study, from data gaps and malfunctioning equipment to poor placement of monitors, made it less representative than its designers had hoped and less certain for drawing conclusions about the long-term heath implications of living near the Washington County sites or Marcellus Shale facilities elsewhere in the state.

A companion report by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that while DEP’s data was sufficient for assessing the ambient air quality at the study sites, it had limited value for determining how emissions from natural gas infrastructure were affecting...

Read entire article at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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