Report: Short-Term Air Quality Not Affected by Gas Drilling in Marcellus Shale

An air quality study near Marcellus Shale natural gas operations in Bradford, Lycoming, Sullivan and Tioga counties in Pennsylvania found no emission levels that would pose a public health concern, according to a report released by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

"The results show there are no emission levels that would be of concern to the health of residents living and working near these operations," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "They are consistent with the results of our air monitoring in southwest and northeast Pennsylvania, the other two areas of the state with the most Marcellus drilling."

The report notes that the sampling effort, conducted between August and December 2010, was not meant to address potential cumulative impacts.

DEP's assessment focused on concentrations of volatile organic compounds, including benzene, toluene and xylene, which are typically found in petroleum products. The department also sampled for other pollutants, such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, near natural gas extraction and processing sites.

DEP first conducted background sampling in early August 2010 at the Sones Pond parking lot in Loyalsock State Forest, in Sullivan County.

The air quality sampling was conducted the weeks of Aug. 30, Nov. 15 and Dec. 6. An evening sampling event was held Nov. 17. DEP used its mobile laboratories and the equipment was set up downwind of the target sources during early morning and late evening hours.

"This study provides us with additional valuable information as part of our ongoing effort to determine the impact of these operations on air quality, public health and the environment," Krancer said.

The air monitoring surveys were located next to Talisman Energy's Thomas Compressor Station in Troy Township, Bradford County; East Energy's Shaw Compressor Station in Mainesburg Township, Tioga County; East Energy's Chicken Hawk well south of Mainesburg; and Anadarko Petroleum's Hagemeyer well in Gamble Township, Lycoming County.

Those surveys detected the main constituents of natural gas—including methane, ethane, propane and butane—as well as low levels of other compounds, such as MtBE, carbon monoxide and methyl mercaptan, the odor-producing compound.

DEP's sampling did not find concentrations of any compound that is likely to trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling activities in the north-central region.

To view the report, log onto www.depweb.state.pa.us and click "Regional Resources," then Northcentral Region, and choose the "Community Information" link on the right side of the page.


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