Garfield considers air-quality testing for community where drilling planned

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County is exploring placement of air-quality-testing stations in Battlement Mesa as one response to a request from residents for a health-impact assessment prior to natural gas drilling by Antero Resources there.

Jim Rada, the county’s environmental health manager, also is looking into other actions that could include working with area hospitals and the new Colorado School of Public Health to help address residents’ concerns.

County commissioners on Wednesday asked Rada to return with an action plan they could formally consider for approval. But they indicated a willingness to proceed with spending county money for some of the health-assessment work.

In an interview, Commissioner John Martin said the money could come from an energy-mitigation fund that the county created several years ago to be able to respond to an economic downturn or adverse effects of drilling. The fund, generated by sources such as severance taxes and federal mineral leasing, now totals more than $20 million.

“The reason we put it there was for this very purpose,” Martin said.

Rada said air monitoring for a few months for volatile organic compounds that can come from drilling might cost about $10,000 to $15,000 per sampling site.

A more general health-impact assessment could range from $100,000 to millions of dollars, depending on how extensive a project is undertaken, Rada said.

In October, commissioners agreed to look into the idea of a health study after more than 400 Battlement Mesa residents signed a petition requesting it. The residents are worried about Antero’s plans to drill as many as 200 wells from 10 pads within the community, whose population of about 5,000 includes many retirees.

“The citizens there feel very threatened and wary,” said Dave Devanney, co-chairman of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens, which asked the county and state for the health study.

Among their requests, they want air and water quality testing done to establish baseline conditions before Antero does any drilling. They also want medical monitoring aimed at detecting possible impacts from drilling.

Rada plans to consult with the Colorado School of Public Health about the school possibly designing a health study, and about how medical monitoring could be done in cooperation with residents and hospitals. Rada toured Battlement Mesa with a school representative Friday.

The school was formed by the University of Colorado at Denver, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. It is the only school of public health in the Rocky Mountain region.


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