Hazardous Chemicals from Oil and Gas Development Detected Near Playgrounds across the Barnett Shale
Carcinogen levels violate TCEQ’s long-term ambient limits
Denton, TX, – Independent air tests at five separate playgrounds across the
Barnett Shale have revealed hazardous chemicals associated with oil and gas development at all five. At three of the playgrounds, carcinogens were present at levels exceeding TCEQ’s long-term ambient limits.
“The oil and gas industry claims that they’re drilling responsibly,” said ShaleTest president Tim Ruggiero. He continued, “These tests show they’re not.”
The tests were of part of a study conducted by ShaleTest.org, an independent nonprofit formed to test air and water in drilling-affected communities for those who can’t afford to fund such tests themselves. As part of the study, ShaleTest performed state of the art air modeling that shows that some of these hazardous chemicals travel for miles.
“Although emerging science confirms that fracking-related air pollution is a health risk, there’s no agreement yet on ‘how close is too close’,” said Calvin Tillman, ShaleTest’s Director. He continued, “these results suggest that sometimes ‘miles away’ can be too close.”
In Denton, Texas, where voters will decide whether to ban fracking in the November election, fracking ban opponents claim that a vote against the ban is a vote for “responsible drilling”. The Denton playground, located in McKenna Park, is one of the playgrounds at which carcinogens were found in excess of TCEQ’s long-term ambient limits.
“The City of Denton promised us air monitoring. But we’d never have known about toxic benzene at McKenna Park violating the TCEQ long term exposure limit if it hadn’t been for independent testing,” said Denton Drilling Awareness Group president Cathy McMullen. She continued, “After years in pursuit of responsible drilling with industry, and state and City government, we now know from personal experience that responsible drilling is a sham. That’s why the only way Denton residents can protect their families is to vote for a ban on fracking in November.”
Links to Gasfinder videos.
This is not the first time toxics have been detected in McKenna park.
The community near McKenna Park collected small donations and hired an environmental scientist to conduct several sets of air monitoring during fracking and flaring.
Note: When this air testing was conducted, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) used Effects Screening Levels (ESL) to determine exposure limits. Now they use the Air Monitoring Comparison Values (AMCV).
Benzene was detected on three different days at 4.81 ppbv, 16.2 ppbv, and 55.4 ppbv, all are exceedences of the long-term ESL exposure limit (Center for Disease Control says long-term is one year) and one exceeds the short-term limit (short-term is typically 15 – 30 minutes).
Benzene is a dangerous chemical and the World Health Organization says, “Benzene is carcinogenic to humans, and no safe level of exposure can be recommended.” But benzene was not the only chemical detected at McKenna Park. Eleven different chemicals were detected and 16 tentatively identified compounds where detected some over long-term/short-term detection limits.
About Sharon Wilson
Sharon Wilson is considered a leading citizen expert on the impacts of shale oil and gas extraction. She is the go-to person whether it’s top EPA officials from D.C., national and international news networks, or residents facing the shock of eminent domain and the devastating environmental effects of natural gas development in their backyards.
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Having read the report, there are a lot of problems with its methodology. For instance, here’s a quote:
“While most of the sampling results did not exceed the TCEQ ESLs or AMCVs, and the ESLs are not even ambient air quality standards, there is still reason for concern. ”
So, if I were writing an unbiased study, my headline would read something like, “Oil and Gas Development Shown to be safe: Work Still to be Done. Or even better, “Elevated Chemical Levels Found at Playgrounds – More Study Needed.”
Also, the study detected CFCs, which have been banned for years and have nothing to do with current oil and gas development.
And this is the crux of the problem – correlation is NOT causation. Okay, you tested some sites. Some of them had elevated levels of chemicals. Where did they come from? Maybe from nearby oil and gas facilities, but also maybe from the cars, homes and businesses nearby. Or maybe these chemicals were in the ground when the playgrounds were built. This study gives us no way of knowing.
This study shows no work done attempting to attribute the chemicals found to oil and gas facilities. NONE. As far as the study is concerned, the elevated levels of chemicals could be from anything. It could be preexisting in the area, just like the CFCs.
So, it IS fair to point out to the users of the playgrounds that there might be elevated levels of chemicals, but it’s completely unfair and disingenuous to say that oil and gas development is doing this to them.
We already have a lot of studies showing that living close to these facilities harms health. How many studies saying we need more study is enough? I mean, does anyone seriously think that breathing those emissions is healthy?
Ethylene dibromide is a chemical on the EPA’s list of banned chemicals and it is somehow being used as a biocide by the fracking industry and thus is showing up around facilities. http://www.texassharon.com/2013/07/28/the-news-about-the-denton-blowout-is-worse-than-you-think/
There are videos showing emissions from the oil and gas facilities and air samples taken downwind of the emissions standing in the park… hmmm maybe that benzene came from the weedeater a few blocks away.
Additionally, if the industry would capture their emissions, we would not be having this conversation because there would be no exposures.
If our regulators did their jobs and tested these areas to protect the public, I could go back to enjoying hobbies.
Well, yes, Jason:
[…]Or maybe these chemicals were in the ground when the playgrounds were built.[…]
But with no requirements for baseline testing conducted for these drilling sites, then these methods must be deployed to detect anything. (We have learned that it requires approx. $60,000 to test the soil for even a small 17 acre tract! So, of course, it’s not done.) Money is more important than people. Everyone knows that!
Our NTX cities, including Grand Prairie, TX, might benefit from air/water testing via ShaleTest since this Gas Drilling Ordinance revised in January 2011 requires all sites to be tested by city-chosen third parties when citizens are concerned and emission control devices added if there’s a problem. (Page 45 of the GP Gas Drilling Ordinance under “Air Quality.”) Dueling air tests come to mind…
[…]Air Quality: The Environmental Services Director shall be authorized to require the utilization of a third party expert as chosen by the City to conduct testing of airborne emissions resulting from any padsite activities in order to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations and/or in response to health concerns. Based on the recommendation of the expert, emission control equipment may be required.[…] (Page 45)
What does Denton’s GD Ordinance say about this? It’s clearly not anything absolutely required by Ordinance in City of GP…but one man (the Enviro Services Director) can authorize it if he so chooses. We call that Absolute Power. LOL
WCGasette recently posted..City of Grand Prairie, TX Should Halt Extraction at the Lynn Unit
Jason–you are just an oil company mouthpiece. You are wasting wind over your windpipes!
Again, I’m just not seeing the evidence you say is there. Are chemicals sometimes bad for people? Absolutely.
Do some oil and gas facilities produce some of those chemicals? Sure.
That doesn’t mean that all oil and gas facilities are hurting the health of people.
The vast majority are operating within regulatory limits and cause no adverse health effects. And I have seen no evidence that proves that the facilities you have noted in this report have caused any negative health effects.
You can make all the assumptions you want (and you do), but saying it’s so and PROVING it’s so are two completely different things.
Sure, we can’t prove anything 100% without a doubt. There is still no proof that cigarettes cause cancer but we all know they do. Just as we all know the guaranteed emissions that come with this kind of development are damaging our health. And we all know that industry will continue to deny rather than addressing the problems so the opposition will continue to grow and grow and grow.
Hmm, Jason, any studies to back up your claims here? Sharon’s blog cites numerous scientific studies, have a look around.
You keep talking about “proof” and “proving”. Where is yours?
Just because you repeat something over and over, doesn’t make it true. Do you live near a gas site? I do. My husband doesn’t anymore; he died of Leukemia, after fracking came to our back yard (twice). Our doctor told me some interesting things, but can’t say them on record, as O$G has effectively paid off enough politicians to retain power over the public and professional spector. Ask Sharon about threats to anyone who dares speak out.
Anyway, I’d love to see you cite any study not paid for by O$G that backs your arguments here. Do you think opposition to drilling too close to homes/schools/etc is some private grudge by citizens? Seriously?
How about blow-outs, right near homes? Do you think a volatile industrial site is a good situation, next to where people live, go to school, work, etc?
You obviously make your living in some way from this, so of course you’re biased …. but I’d listen if you had one shred of evidence to back your opinions.
He is in Canada so no clue why he feels compelled to comment on a little old Texas blog.
Alberta Neighbor says
“Little old Texas blog,” … haha yeah, a.k.a. “The Crystal Ball of Frac’ing Chaos,” and I expect the industry bubs in every country (including Jason in Canada) are most unhappy the world gets to gaze into it and see where the big carpet-bombing fracs and damages were born, the free-for-all “crap where you learn and play but don’t live” frac play school and kindergarten years, the dark “lying is your best friend” frac adolescence years, and how one uncontrollable, not very well understood frac “size,” fits a global experiment.
I’m thinking the industry was hoping to keep the “learning” years a little more hush-hush … ah well, too late. Thank you for keeping that ball lit, it’s bloody awful about the playgrounds.
I like your blog. It got referenced in an article I was reading about environmental activism. It’s well-regarded. Congratulations on your success. I’m just poking around to see what you’re doing. I’m a bit concerned (well, a lot concerned) about the way you portray the facts, but am otherwise impressed.
And I am equally concerned about the way you portray the facts so we do have something in common after all.
I, unfortunately, don’t have the time to review all the studies on this excellent site. I wish I did so I could have an intelligent debate with you. I did, however, have time to review this one study and have pointed out its flaws. And I haven’t read any credible evidence to dispute my points. Plus, I’m not the one making claims against an industry that has been deemed to be operating safely in your area.
Maybe once the government declares the industry unsafe and bans it from existing I’ll start providing cites to academic studies (of which thousands exist. I just don’t have the time or inclination to find them for you).
You may have a TON of legitimate problems in your neck of the woods and I recognize that some operators don’t necessarily take care to protect human health. They should. There are regulations in place to protect people and environment and they should be followed. I do not dispute that.
But making a bunch of ad hoc accusations with zero proof doesn’t help anyone and only serves to spread ignorance.
We don’t need you to provide academic studies as I do that regularly. But thanks for your kind offer of help.
“….. deemed to be operating safely in your area.”
By whom? O$G? Politicians they pay off? Government agencies they pay off?
That’s funny! You were joking, right?
I like when someone says, “Here are my arguments, but I haven’t had time to read anything about it, and won’t be providing anyone with my proof.”
Impressive debating skills! The “bully” claim is especially so. I wonder why that word gets thrown about so easily? It’s a cliche for the uninformed.
Still curious if you live near a site, Jason in Canada? Of course you don’t. You people never do, yet you’re experts on what we deal with.
Cathy McMullen says
Jason, regulatory limits established for a 160# man working 8 hours with exposure. WTF don’t you industry Aholes not understand about exposure at a playground being WRONG. Don’t you have kids, don’t you have any moral compass? Man you guys are sickening, both literally and figuratively.
Very good point Cathy–there is a big difference in many aspects of exposures to toxins for a healthy male in the workplace vs. an occupant of his/her residence.
I don’t know that that’s true. I tracked down the TCEQ’s toxicology guidelines and they had this to say:
“ReV and RfD values [Jason – reference toxicology values]are designed to protect the most sensitive individuals in a population, such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly, in part by inclusion of uncertainty factors (UFs). ”
The full report is here:
I could totally be reading the wrong section, so feel free to correct me.
This is also a good example of why I’m not able to refute everybody’s claims and cite a million studies. It takes a long time to track this stuff down and understand it. I just don’t have the time. I apologize for this. You folks are passionate and deserve good answers to your points, but I just can’t provide good answers all the time.
Also, yes I have a family. Yes, I have a moral compass. If my kids were being sickened by a company I would attack them. To my knowledge, mine are not. And, in this very specific study, I don’t see any proof that the children in this area are either.
Like I said previously, you will NEVER see absolute proof just as there is no absolute proof that cigarettes cause cancer.
We are not asking you to provide any answers. We have the answers we need and we are taking the actions necessary to protect our families.
It’s obvious that you have more than just a passing curiosity in what is happening here or you would not devote so much time to condescending comments. Guys like you are a dime a dozen in the gas patch.
Alberta Neighbor says
“If my kids were being sickened by a company I would attack them.”
Admirable, spoken like a true “family” man with a “moral compass.” Now how would you know your kids “were being sickened by a company?”
Again, with regard to this specific study, I’m not saying that there isn’t 100% proof, I”m saying there is NO proof.
One thing I will say about this site, there is a TON of hostility. Why are you so angry at me? Why are you calling me names? Why does this site exist? Is it just to tell people what they want to hear? I’m not here to tell you that you’re a bunch of idiots. I just want to understand your perspective. Maybe there are some legit issues. If so, please share them.
Please remember that I am familiar with this site’s last week of content. There’s probably been a lot of issues raised and maybe you’ve heard from some dicks in the oil and gas industry. I can’t fix that. I’m just asking that you address my concerns with an open mind. I think that’s reasonable.
If I”m not welcome. If you want to have only one perspective, I’m sure you can ban me with a keystroke. That’s your decision.
The proof that this report provides is that there are emissions coming from the gas facilities that are too near playgrounds. The response from our regulators proves that they are more concerned with providing cover to the industry than trying to solve problems of protect the public.
Cut the crap! “why are you so angry with me.”
If you want to find out about legit issues, why this site exists, our perspective then read more and comment less. We been at this for about a decade now we we don’t have time for this kind of back and forth. We have kids with nosebleeds, rashes and asthma. We are busy and we can’t even sit on the porch and drink a cocktail and relax because our porch smells like rotten eggs and petroleum.
Jason, you entertain me by your comments that range from playing “good cop” to blaming others. You are a typical oil company sponsored GAS HOLE.
And you’re just a bully. You’ve done nothing but insult me.
You have no idea to whom you are speaking. EVERYONE who has commented on this post except YOU has lost things that are irreplaceable because of oil & gas operations.
I don’t like to censor anyone but you are coming into my living room for a conversation with a group of people who have been horribly bullied by a horrible industry so it’s time for you to STFU.
Clearly you folks have just had too many negative experiences with the oil and gas industry to listen a reasonable person. I get it.
It’s a shame that this situation has become so toxic, but I don’t see a way to connect with you. I wish you all the best of luck with your efforts, but I can’t see you ever being able to reach a fair compromise with the industry.
If you think oil & gas facilities releasing toxins in playgrounds, or even being anywhere near playgrounds is reasonable, then you, sir, are not reasonable.
Like I suggested earlier, you should read more and comment less. You have only looked at 2 or 3 posts on this blog. Since you live in Canada, you can’t possible know what is going on in Texas.
I live here–5th generation.
Alberta Neighbor says
“Clearly you folks have just had too many negative experiences with the oil and gas industry to listen a reasonable person.”
“Reasonable,” or unaffected? Apparently neither yourself or your family have had a “negative experience” yet, but I expect that when you do, you will fall quickly in-line with the rest of the industry CEO’s and workers who find themselves and their families staring down the barrel of their own industry’s “negative experience” loaded gun.
“… I can’t see you ever being able to reach a fair compromise with the industry.”
So what will your personal “fair compromise” of choice be, when those “negative experiences” slap you upside the head and your family’s unfairly compromised? There appears to be a bevy of choices:
Will you go the industry worker “negative experience” gypsy route, and move yourself and your family away from “Hell” – over and over again?
“Confessions of an Oil and Gas Worker: I live in Heaven, but I work in Hell…
… You must be asking why I still work there. I am an addict to oil and gas for my vehicles and my wages. I am slowly breaking away and the first step was to remove my family from Alberta to a safe place like New Brunswick. If Oil and Gas are allowed to run amok here like they do in Alberta, we will be moving again.”
Will you launch a Texas Tillerson flavoured “negative experience” lawsuit citing: “unreasonable discomfort, annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities, fear, apprehension, offence, loss of peace of mind, emotional harm,” and threaten to leave town?
“‘I cannot stay in a place,’ he said, ‘where I do not know who to count on and who not to count on.'”
Will you join, if and when the frac’ers attempt to return, the hundreds of reasonable industry execs, employees and families who, to avoid those “negative experiences,” ran the frac’ers out of Canada’s oil and gas capital?
Or will you simply gather up your sick family and your “million studies,” abandon your “compromised” home and community, and never look back at those “negative experiences?”
“The Hawkwoods have contacted the Alberta Energy Board and have written to politicians, but nothing has happened.
They said most of their neighbours are trying to sell their properties.
‘They’re frightened and they want to leave, or they’ve been affected,’ Nielle said.
‘There’s a neighbour to the south of us – he has prostate cancer, his wife lost her hair, their two teenage daughters lost their hair; they’ve abandoned the house and told the real estate agent to get what you can for it.'”
Tough choices so best of luck, but do take solace in the fact that yourself and your family won’t be alone, according to US Supreme Court Justices, Canadian government lawyers and Texas juries, those “negative experiences” – and damage$$$$ – are expected to run far and wide.
2013 – “’By any responsible account,’ [Pennsylvania Supreme Court] Chief Justice Castille wrote, ‘the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and the future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.’”
2014 – “Yesterday, a jury awarded the Parr family $3 million in damages for the fracking-related impacts caused by Aruba Petroleum’s operations near their home in Texas.
The jury’s decision is important for two reasons.
When evidence of fracking’s impacts are shown to an impartial jury in a court of law, they find them to be real and significant.
And it shows why the fracking industry is reluctant to allow lawsuits of this type to go to trial. Instead fracking companies try to force out of court settlements that gag the harmed family as a condition for financial compensation. They almost always succeed, hiding from the public the proof of fracking’s dangers. Consequently, industry and government continue claiming fracking is harmless.”
2014 – “An Alberta government lawyer argued in court this week that Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit on hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination should be struck down on the grounds that it would open a floodgate of litigation against the province.
‘There could be millions or billions of dollars worth of damages,’ argued Crown counsel Neil Boyle.”