Appalachian Basin

Monitoring Near School Shows No Impact to Air Quality From Shale Development

Some opposed to shale development claim air quality is negatively impacted during the hydraulic fracturing and flaring stages of well completion.  While they continue to make their baseless claims, a new report from the Fort Cherry School District has shown that they don’t have the data on their side.

In 2011, the Fort Cherry School District commissioned the company ChemRisk to perform air monitoring during the hydraulic fracturing and flaring operations at a well pad located approximately 900 yards north of the school campus. The newly released public results from the air monitoring clearly show air quality near the school had no adverse impacts from shale development taking place nearby.

From the ChemRisk report:

“The results of the fracking and flaring sampling periods were similar to the results obtained from the baseline monitoring period and likewise, did not show anything remarkable with respect to chemicals detected in the ambient air. When volatile compounds were detected, they were consistent with background levels measured at the school and in other areas in Washington County. Furthermore, a basic yet conservative screening level evaluation shows that the detected volatile compounds were below health-protective levels.” (Emphasis added) (Page 6)

Prior to any well completion operations a baseline air quality sample was taken over the course of nine days – November 14, 2011 through November 29, 2011, before hydraulic fracturing operations started. According to the report, air monitoring devices remained in the same locations throughout the monitoring as the baseline sampling period, with the air monitoring station situated at the northern end of the school.

Here’s what the report had to say about its measurements:

Hydrogen Sulfide (HS)

“The overall results indicate that the H2S concentrations measured during the fracking phase were similar to those measured during the flaring phase. Additionally, fracking and flaring concentrations were generally similar to the concentrations measured during the baseline period.” (p. 3; emphasis added)

H2S Graph (2)

Explosive Gases

“Concentrations of explosive gases were not detected during fracking or flaring. All LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) measurements recorded during the baseline, fracking and flaring sampling periods were 0% of the LEL.” (p. 3; emphasis added)

Total Volatile Organic Compounds

“These results indicate that in general, the total VOC concentrations measured during fracking were similar to those measured during flaring. Furthermore, the total VOC concentrations measured during both the fracking and flaring periods were lower than those measured during the baseline period. At no point during any of the three sampling periods did a total VOCmeasurement approach the action level of 20 ppm.” (p. 4; emphasis added)

VOC Graph (2)

*Concentrations in ppm*

As more and more air quality studies are done those opposed to shale development are faced with the hard truth, this development doesn’t have adverse health impacts on those living nearby. Air quality monitoring results from West VirginiaTexas and DEP reports here in the Commonwealth all share common language –

“Did not show anything remarkable”

“Consistent with background levels”

“Below health-protective levels.”

Now yet another study of air quality in Pennsylvania has come to the conclusion that there are no credible air quality threats associated with oil and gas development.

It’s clear that shale development is environmentally sound – it’s also fueling something big in states that allow it. This industry is putting people back to work while at the same time lowering energy costs and creating a manufacturing renaissance here in the United States –something many thought we would never see. Studies like this show us that the call for a ban on hydraulic fracturing and shale development – like those opposed are pushing for – would be irresponsible.


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