Marcellus air quality test

Washington County selected for long-term test because of gas drilling

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The Department of Environmental Protection announced Monday that it has begun a one-year air quality study of Marcellus Shale development in Washington County.


The study will monitor the air for more than 60 pollutants, including ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide and methane, and determine potential air quality changes over the course of a year.


The DEP will use the data to conduct a long-term analysis of air-related risks to the public.


“Washington County was selected because it’s one of the most active areas for drilling in the state,” said DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday. “We’ll get a good year’s worth of data and we’ll collect more emissions data than ever before.”


In 2010 and 2011, the DEP conducted short-term air quality studies near Marcellus Shale natural gas operations, including studies in Washington and Greene counties. Those studies showed no emission levels that would cause air-related health issues, Sunday said.


The primary site of the long-term study will be downwind of the Houston gas processing plant in Chartiers Township, according to the DEP website.


DEP also will monitor for volatile organic compounds and collect meteorological at two additional sites in Chartiers Township and one in Hickory. One of the Chartiers sites is upwind of the Houston plant, and the other is downwind of the Brigich compressor station. The Hickory site is downwind of the Stewart compressor stations.


DEP plans to collect at least one year of data and compare those results to national ambient air quality standards, then conduct a long-term risk analysis.


Sunday said a report likely will be completed by next September.


According to Washington County-based MarkWest Energy Partners spokesman Robert McHale, the company supports the study and believes regulations should be based on science and fact-based data.


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