Local hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling wells expose those living nearest to them to dangerous levels of air pollution.
According to a report from The Denver Post, researchers at Univ. of Colorado’s Denver School of Public Health have conducted sampling of air quality within a half-mile of an active fracking well. They found that levels of toxins in the air measured five-times a safe federal standard. The lead author of the study told the source that debate on the safety and need for fracking should include concerns about the impact on air quality, especially in areas surrounding wells.
High concentrations of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) nearest fracking wells in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming were measured at five-times the limit at which point the federal government considers them a threat to public health. Some of the toxic agents researchers found in air samples taken near fracking wells are trimethylbenzenes, aliphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes. VOCs released from fracking wells could be blamed for incidents of respiratory distress, eye irritations, headaches, and sore throats, according to the study.
To arrive at the results, researchers measured air quality samples around Battlefield Mesa in Garfield County, Colo., covering three years. Colorado has been a haven for fracking drilling for several decades but only recently has national attention been drawn to the method of extracting natural gas and oil from underground shale and rock formations. A demand for a fuel other than foreign oil has prompted a boom on fracking drilling across the U.S.
Tens of thousands of active fracking wells are operational in Colorado. Just as many more have been recently opened across the country. It is in that expansion that the public has become more aware of the potential pitfalls associated with the boom in exploration. Realizing that fracking wells can also lead to dangerous air pollution levels is just another danger of the process.
As more wells have been opened, many people have become aware of a more visible danger of local fracking wells. Those living within a mile of wells have already begun complaining about it causing toxic contamination of private water wells, forcing many to find alternative sources of fresh water to use in their home. In some cases, water has become so contaminated with methane gas, benzene, and diesel fuel that water can’t even be used for common household tasks like cleaning, bathing, or filling the toilet.
In Colorado, the dangers of fracking drilling have largely gone unnoticed due to a lack of wells near residents. Just 8 percent of wells were located near homes. But as fracking has expanded exponentially across the country, more wells have been opened closer and closer to homes, putting more people at risk of suffering from its dangerous effects.
Many of those residents now face extra risks or should at least be aware of another threat posed by fracking drilling. The threat of air pollution being released from an active well is greatest when that well is being “completed,” according to the source. Completion at a well site is not long-lasting but it’s a time in which the highest concentrations of toxic gases and other contaminants are released into the air.
The study did not measure the impact on air quality caused by fracking drilling beyond a half-mile of an active well.