Gas well findings spark relief and concern

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Considering the intensity of the explosion at the Chevron Appalachia well site in Dunkard Township Feb. 11, and the resulting fire that burned for several days, it is remarkable the state Department of Environmental Protection’s air sampling found no pollutants at concentration levels harmful to local residents or emergency responders.


The results of the DEP tests released last week indicated the agency took samples at several sites upwind and downwind of the well pad from Feb. 12 for eight days, the day the wells were capped. The samples were analyzed for 57 toxic air pollutants.


Previously, the department released a report on radiation studies completed at the site that showed no radiation levels had exceeded normal “background” levels. No testing of groundwater was conducted because DEP didn’t believe that was necessary because the explosion and fire were confined to the well site.


While the DEP said none of the levels of pollutants detected during the nine-day period in which the sampling was conducted presented a threat to health, we were, nonetheless, taken aback by the kinds of chemicals DEP tested, none of which sound particularly good for anyone’s health, no matter what the level.


How often in our daily lives do we concern ourselves with propene, heptane and 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene, or 1,2 dichlorotetrafluoroethane? Probably never, unless we happen to live near a well site that explodes or conducts gas flaring.


DEP should be commended for its vigilance in conducting air quality testing and we are relieved the levels were not at a harmful level.


We now hope the DEP is just as vigilant in finding the cause of the explosion. The life lost there is certainly one life too many, and if another gas well catastrophe would occur, there is that chance the emissions spewed into the air could be significantly more noxious and toxic.


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