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Ohio Utica Shale

One West Virginia drilling site with troublesome air pollution, study says

By Bob Downing Published: July 1, 2013

From the Associated Press:

A recent study found benzene and other pollutants in the air at seven natural gas drilling sites in three counties in West Virginia.

But the study by West Virginia University Public School of Health chairman Michael McCawley found only one site where there was concern, the Maury pad in Wetzel County where high levels of benzene were found.

Benzene levels at the Maury pad were 85 parts per billion, compared to a normal range between one and 30 parts per billion. There was more diesel truck activity at the Maury and the trucks could have produced most of the benzene detected, said McCawley.

McCawley released the findings Friday during a public health conference at Ogelbay Park, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register reported.

He said benzene levels at the other drilling sites in Wetzel, Marion and Brooke counties were more like the exposure one would experience living in a city.

"Benzene is a carcinogen and causes leukemia," McCawley said. "There is no level at which there is no risk. However, the lower the level, the lower the risk is likely to be. ... In the debates to follow this, people will be talking about this at their own level of subjectivity."

The study, which was conducted for the state Department of Environmental Protection, also examined light emissions, dust and noise levels, and airborne radiation levels at the drilling sites in Wetzel, Brooke and Marion counties.

The DEP said in a report submitted Friday to legislative leaders that no new rules regarding air quality near horizontal drilling pads are needed at this time, according to The State Journal (http://bit.ly/11SbaJn).

McCawley said a similar study is expected in other Northern Panhandle counties. It will also include diesel emissions and long-term health data from local hospitals.

"The concern I have with noise and populations is that studies have shown that interfering with sleep, as noise can do, can cause a rise in hypertension," McCawley said. "We have problems with hypertension already here in West Virginia. The levels that can interfere with sleep are above 55 decibels. ... The noise on the pad when they are fracking runs about 120-130 decibels. That's enough to cause serious damage and enough to be painful if not wearing protection."

The study was one of three mandated by the Legislature during a special session in December 2011.

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Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.