Completion of Battlement Mesa health study delayed

Completion of a Garfield County study of the possible health impacts of proposed natural gas development in Battlement Mesa has been delayed until early next year to allow enough time to respond to concerns about its draft findings.

The study was to be released this week, but Garfield Commissioner John Martin estimated at this week’s commission meeting that it may take another three to four months to finish.

Dr. Roxana Witter, with the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado–Denver, which is conducting the study, agreed that considering public comments will improve the project’s results.

“We appreciate the opportunity to do it in a very thorough manner,” Witter told commissioners by telephone.

The draft report pointed to possible health risks if Antero Resources is allowed to drill up to 200 wells in Battlement Mesa, an unincorporated community of about 5,000 residents.

About 400 comments were submitted regarding the draft, including by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which raised methodological and other concerns in a nine-page critique.

Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said the Health Department raised what seemed to “very valid concerns … that need to be answered.” He said the study is being looked at by others around Colorado and even nationally, and it’s important that it be done right.

Martin said many people are using the study “for national political rhetoric,” which isn’t its purpose.

Commissioner Tresi Houpt said she doesn’t think it’s a political tool, and it’s important that the integrity of the study process is protected.

Meanwhile, Houpt raised questions about the status of air-quality testing that was scheduled to occur next week at an Antero well pad near Battlement Mesa. That baseline monitoring is intended to be part of developing a longer-term environmental-health-monitoring study.

Witter said Antero asked that the testing not proceed at this time because some of the emissions-control technology it plans to use while drilling at Battlement Mesa isn’t available.

Witter said researchers are looking to do sampling with another energy company operating in the area. It has been speaking with Williams and may be able to proceed with the work in the next month or two, she said.

Said Houpt, “I’m kind of sorry they (Antero) are not going to do that baseline with you, but I hope Williams will.”


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