Fort Cherry Hydraulic Fracturing Air Monitoring

Cardno ChemRisk employees conducted a three-month air monitoring study to evaluate the potential community health risks resulting from air emissions from a hydraulic fracturing well pad that was being actively developed in Washington County, PA. This study was performed pro bono at the request of local community members who were concerned about the potential risks that this natural gas development could pose to their children, considering that the well pad was located within 900 m of a school complex. The ambient air at two locations, a local residence and the school, was continuously monitored for total volatile organic compounds (VOCs), hydrogen sulfide, percent lower explosive limit, and carbon monoxide, and was periodically monitored for 24-hour averages of a set of 62 individual VOCs. Over the three month sampling period, Cardno ChemRisk was able to obtain continuous air monitoring data representative of background conditions and while hydraulic fracturing and flaring occurred on the well pad.

In addition to communicating the air monitoring results to the local community members at the study's conclusion, Cardno ChemRisk scientists Julie Panko, Erin Hynds, Joshua Maskrey, and Allison Insley recently published the total and individual VOC monitoring results in the July 2016 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Overall, total VOC concentrations did not differ from the background concentrations measured prior to fracking, or those measured following the flaring period. Overall, total VOC concentrations ranged between 0.16 and 80 ppb during all sampling periods. Several individual VOCs were detected in the 24-hour samples, but they were consistent with background concentrations previously measured in the region. A screening-level health risk assessment performed based on these results demonstrated that the measured concentrations of individual VOCs were well below established health-protective levels. The authors concluded that hydraulic fracturing operations did not substantially affect local air concentrations of total or individual VOCs at this site in Washington County.

This study adds to the growing body of research related to unconventional natural gas development. This topic has received substantial attention over the last 15 years because of the specific processes necessary for releasing subsurface natural gas, and its oftentimes close proximity to highly populated areas, as was the case in this study.

An abstract of the manuscript, as well as the option to download the full text, is located here