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Early Gas Well Test Results Show No Pollution Violations

By Joel Thomas, CBS 11 News
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A quality control technician for Halliburton Energy Services Company, checks the levels of chemicals that are used in completing  a natural gas well.

A quality control technician for Halliburton Energy Services Company, checks the levels of chemicals that are used in completing a natural gas well.

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FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - To people like Cynthia Burnett, who lives in East Fort Worth, what’s coming from nearby gas well sites is of more than just a passing interest.  It’s a serious question about health.

“Pollution is hard on my husband and he’s got asthma,” Burnett said. “And my kids got asthma.”

Fort Worth has hired consultants to test the air around gas well sites. The goals of the study are to measure the quantity of emissions coming from the sites, whether the emissions are within regulatory limits, what effects the emissions have on air downwind of the site and whether the city’s regulations about setback distances for compressors, wells and tanks are adequate for public safety.

Early tests of the ambient air outside the sites show no traces of pollution exceeding state or federal safety levels, although traces of pollutants such as acetaldehyde, benzene and formaldehyde were detectable.

Other tests — called point source testing — were run right next to the gas production equipment.

Those tests found 31 wells had no detectable emissions.

55 had emissions below levels they’d been issued state permits for.

But two gas compressor sites exceeded the levels of their permits: one between I-35 and the Stockyards, and another in far west Fort Worth.

City inspectors say those results don’t show a health risk at those two sites, but it does show the state needs to regulate them differently.

“That’s just a permit,” said Michael Gange of the Fort Worth Transportation and Public Works Department. “Its not a health threshold or anything like that. It’s a permit condition. We haven’t done the health analysis.”

That’s because the city’s tests are far from over. Inspectors have examined fewer than half of the well sites they intend to test.

“There’s a lot more to come,” Gange said. “This just scratches the surface of the amount of data we’ll have in our final report.”

That report is expected to be complete at the end of June. But for people living in the shadows of the well sites, the on-going tests bring at least some peace of mind.

“I think that’s good. They’re going by and checking on our air,” said Burnett.

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