East Boulder County Residents Concerned About Air Quality and Fracking

Steven Holley lives in Boulder County, but he’s right on East County Line Road, so on the other side of the street lies Weld County, one of the most fracked counties in the country.

 

 

He was concerned about the health impacts of all that oil and gas drilling particularly when it comes to air quality, so he requested the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment send a mobile air quality test unit to his property to monitor Volatile Organic Compounds and other gases in the air. A few weeks ago, the state did that and Holley’s driveway has played host to the state’s only mobile air quality monitoring unit or CAMML (Colorado Air Monitoring Mobile Laboratory.)

Researcher Dan Bon with the CAMML unit at Steve Holley’s property.

“Well after many attempts with the COGCC (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) as well as many conversations with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, we discovered that they actually had a mobile lab for testing air, so we made a request that they come out and set it up here and they said that they would.”

Holley says that he has consistently been against fracking and has become increasingly alarmed seeing the intensity of oil and gas activity in such close proximity to his home. “We don’t understand why they’re fracking all around here especially on Open Space and places where they’ve spent millions of dollars in buying conservation easements and that’s basically what’s happening right across the road from our house. $2 million was spent in buying conservation easements and now a giant 32 well pad is going in and so obviously we’re concerned and we think this all should stay in the ground.”

 

Dan Bon is the Mobile Lab Lead Investigator with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment who has been monitoring the air at Holley’s residence for the past few weeks.

Listen to the interview with Dan Bon.

 

He says the mobile lab is primarily deployed in response to calls from residents about health concerns.

Inside the CDPHE mobile air monitoring laboratory.

“We respond to a number of things. We have a team that evaluates each particular situation, we try to keep the mobile lab going as much as we can when we’re not getting active complaints, just because we want to use the resource that we have. But we have a toxicology team that does man our oil and gas health information response program line, we have a call line. Complaints that are in any way related to health get forwarded to us by COGCC, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and also by internal or even local governments. Anything there that would have a health component would get our attention. We return those calls immediately and discuss potential deployments.”

Bon says data that is gathered at the mobile lab is amassed and passed along for analysis by the toxicologists at the CDPHE. “I’m trying to measure air toxins, volatile organic compounds and I’m trying to do that with the highest accuracy that I can and be as neutral as I can.”

“The whole Front Range does see air from Weld County operations, oil and gas, it’s a very tightly packed industrial area for oil and gas development and that’s not without emissions. We work with the oil and gas industry on our ozone planning because VOCs do contribute to ozone to some extent, but they’re not the only contributor to ozone. So it’s very well known that the air over Weld County is enhanced in volatile organic compounds. It’s a different matter as to whether those get pushed into Denver or into Boulder or whatever, and that really is dependent on the winds… Sometimes they can get blown out over the plains or get lofted up high into the atmosphere where not too many people are going to breathe them and other times they will get pushed inward, in towards the urban area but they do tend to get diluted. And somewhere like the Boulder Reservoir is going to be further away than something like where I tend to put my mobile lab on the boundary of, in this case Boulder County and Weld County.

Dr. Detlev Helmig, a researcher at INSTAAR has been leading air quality testing at the Boulder Reservoir for over a year. Listen to the interview with Dr. Helmeg on KGNU from November 2018.

 

Find out more about the CDPHE monitoring of health impacts of oil and gas and the CAMML unit:
You can report a health concern to the CDPHE related to oil and gas through their website.