Bryan W. Shaw, a chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), wrote a letter to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in response to the misinformation that has been circulating about the air quality in Fort Worth as a result of Barnett Shale drilling. Shaw begins the article, after a brief introduction, “The TCEQ can state, without hesitation, that benzene levels in Fort Worth pose no immediate health risk…” He then goes into explaining that the short-term benzene threshold for potential health-based concerns are levels exceeding 180 parts per billion by volume of air (ppbv) and the highest volume registered in Fort Worth so far is 6.3 ppbv. When looking at long-term concentrations the ppbv is tied to lifetime exposure meaning one would have to be exposed to the threshold for 24 hours a day for 70 years. For this the TCEQ uses a threshold of 1.4 ppbv which, surprisingly, is quite a bit less than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) threshold of 14 ppbv. To put this into perspective, according to Shaw, if your house has an attached garage that you park your car in the garage can have about 60 ppbv of benzene and around 10 ppbv in your house and when pumping gas a person is likely to be exposed to 11,000 ppbv of benzene. The article then goes on to say that only 2 facilities in the Barnett Shale have exceeded the short-term threshold and operators of the facilities fixed the issues. This year the TCEQ also installed air monitoring devices in 3 areas that have been deemed air quality “problem areas” by the media and anti-drilling activists and the hourly readings can be queried at tinyurl.com/barnettair. I went ahead and checked the air samples for benzene for June 14th and the 3 questionable areas Dish, Eagle Mountain Lake, and Fort Worth Northwest had daily highs of 0.09 ppbv, 0.03 ppbv and 0.07 ppbv respectively. In comparison, Nederland High School near Beaumont had a high of 0.25 ppbv and Milby Park in Houston had a high of 0.21 ppbv (neither location near the Barnett Shale). Shaw also address concerns about the TCEQ not informing the public about air quality issues for which he responds that they do, in fact, alert the public and states, “Several months ago, when our sampling surveys registered high numbers miles from Fort Worth, we held news conferences, did countless interviews with reporters, and made presentations to several city councils and community groups to inform area residents that some concern might exist.” In this blogger’s opinion the TCEQ is doing what is necessary to monitor and protect air quality in and around the Barnett Shale and they should be praised for their hard work.
To learn more about regulations and air quality in and around the Barnett Shale visit the Barnett Shale Regulatory, Environmental Info folder in the Unconventional Updates in DI’s DNA.
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