This past year, the Allegheny County Health Department began monitoring air quality at Pittsburgh International Airport to gauge the potential health risks of fracking.
Jim Thompson, the deputy director of environmental health for the department said they’re monitoring at the Imperial Point Development, which is approximately 2,500 feet from well pad #2 at the airport.
The health department started monitoring in March of this year and collected baseline pre-drilling data. What they found were concentrations that were typical of a suburban area in the Pittsburgh region. Most of the pollution they registered was what you find from vehicles.
They haven’t seen any significant changes since drilling began, but they only have information through September.
There is at least a 60-day turnaround time because the samples have to be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency for analysis.
“There at the airport, the gas not only contains methane but it also contains various volatile organic compounds, and those are compounds that if are found in high concentrations have the potential for serious health effects,” Thompson said.
They are checking for 61 volatile organic compounds, the kind you would most typically find in wet-gas production.
“These are compounds that have the potential to cause serious health effects such as cancer and other respiratory (non-cancer) effects,” Thompson said.
These are compounds that have been found in other areas of the country, particularly in Texas at levels of concern.
Since air monitoring began, some organic compounds have begun appearing.
“We’re finding concentrations, in very low concentrations in very low parts per billion. And in general, health effects due to these compounds at low concentrations are something that would show up in over a long period of time,” he said.
Drilling began at the airport in July and health officials are continuing to monitor the area.