Something suspect in the air: oil and gas air quality concerns in GarCo

In light of new evidence natural-gas drilling may be introducing elevated levels of the carcinogen benzene into the air around the Western Slope towns of Parachute and Rifle, the Garfield County commissioners this week said they may step up air-quality monitoring, according to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

The paper quoted Democratic county commissioner Trési Houpt saying “we still have a lot of unanswered questions out there” and calling for using the county’s oil and gas mitigation fund to bump up the county’s environmental health department budget.

Paul Reaser, the senior environmental health specialist for the county’s health department, said there is not currently a public health crisis in the county, but “there are some health trends that need to continue to be monitored.”

But Republican county commissioner John Martin, according to the paper, said that while he agrees with the need for stronger air-quality monitoring, he doesn’t want the environmental health department’s budget to exceed a two-percent growth limit set for all departments in 2010. Houpt replied that it’s a different pot of money and shouldn’t be subject to the same limitations.

Teran Hughes, a resident of the Divide Creek area south of Silt, told the commissioners six gas wells surround his home: “We’ve had to move out twice, because the smells are so bad … I’d appreciate you guys addressing that, and standing up for us.”

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