Don't expand gas compressor without a plan to protect health

| 24 Feb 2015 | 05:54

To the Editor:
The residents of Pike County have expressed their concerns regarding the negative impact of the gas compressor expansion, including a rally, a hearing attended by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the gas companies, and several actions taken by and organized by the leadership of Energy Justice Network. To date, I am not aware of any effort to address those concerns or alleviate potential adverse health outcomes that will no doubt result as a consequence of the gas compressor expansion.

Please allow me to elaborate on our concerns, trying to bring some perspective and understanding to the conversation. The below is taken from the environmental consultant Wilma Subra's findings about health effects of compressors.

The Marcellus shale has large quantities of radioactive components such as Radium 226 and 228. The radioactive components contaminate the natural gas stream and build up units in the compressor facilities. Radium 226 is a bone seeker and causes bone and lung cancer. We are extremely concerned with radioactive particles. There is no explanation by industry or regulators as to how radon gas would or could be removed from the methane. In the absence of an explanation we must conclude that it will be emitted along with methane. The decay particles of radium include dangerous particles such as polonium, which decays into radioactive lead, and then permanently into just lead. So the concern is short-term exposure to highly radioactive particles and then long term exposure to and accumulation of lead particles. The gas industry is largely self-regulated and their air emissions are entirely self-reported. No one monitors what is emitted. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards only address annual average emissions rather than episodic emissions brief concentrated burst of emissions known to damage the human tissue. She points to a study in the March issue of Reviews of Environmental Health by David Brown and his colleagues at the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health project:

Case study descriptions of acute onset of respirator, neurologic, dermal, vascular, abdominal and gastrointestinal sequelae near natural gas facilities contrast with a subset of emissions research. Which suggests that there is limited risk posed by unconventional natural gas development. Meanwhile, Subra finds through her research that symptoms troubling Minisink residents are typical of what 90 percent of people living two to three miles from a gas compressor and also metering stations experience.

Everyone knows that time is of the essence in preventing this disaster to the community and environment. The gas compressor expansion is simply not acceptable without addressing the adverse impacts for the people living in Pike County and the tristate area. What can be done to avoid adverse impact to the health of Pike County citizens? Abandoning the project all together would be the simplest solution. The other option is to use an electric gas compressor. This would be a significant improvement to the current project.

I sincerely hope you will take into consideration the significant adverse impact your current plans and action have on the Pike County and tristate area citizens and adjust your plans to drastically reduce or eliminate the damage that might occur otherwise.

Barbara Whitney