Two state lawmakers from Fort Worth are calling for increased air testing around natural gas drilling sites after data shows high levels of benzene, a chemical known to cause cancer.
Sen. Wendy Davis and Rep. Marc Veasey said past testing by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality may not present an accurate picture. Veasey called the TCEQ's handling of air testing unacceptable after eight samples taken in Dec., 2009 showed no levels or cause for concern, only to have half of those sample locations to be above the long-term exposure levels considered safe for benzene.
Now the lawmakers want 24-hour air monitors in southeast Tarrant County where the benzene levels are high. See the map here. Currently, the only 24-hour air monitors in the county are in northwest Fort Worth and at Eagle Mountain Lake.
"We are calling for a plan of action from TCEQ to address the elevated benzene emissions we have seen in southeast Tarrant County," Davis said. "Families in every corner of our community deserve to know whether the air they are breathing is safe."
"If our state environmental agency wants to show they are concerned about the health and safety of the people living in my district, they will immediately put into place a full-time air monitor and make the data available to the public," Veasey said.
In a letter to Mark Vickery, the executive director of the TCEQ, on Monday, Davis and Veasey also asked for a plan of action to monitor sites that have demonstrated high emissions and to disclose how the TCEQ will identify other sites that may also have an emissions problem. Below is Vickery's reply:
"Several months ago, the TCEQ ordered three new Auto GC air monitoring systems for deployment to the Barnett Shale region. We expect to have monitors up and running by the end of the summer. The agency is now evaluating the best locations for the new monitors based on criteria that includes the number of facilities in a geographic area, proximity to residents, potential risk and meteorological conditions. We will continue to work closely with all elected officials and the public in the Barnett Shale in an effort to provide real-time air quality data available around the clock. I continue to believe there is no immediate health risk in North Texas, but some areas near oil and gas facilities require additional monitoring."
The TCEQ said they are currently going through the process of evaluating potential sites for the air monitoring systems.
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