TRIADELPHIA - Dr. Michael Blatt believes Chesapeake Energy should find a way to reduce the amount of methane, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde the company is releasing into the air from its natural gas operations.
"I support the drilling, but there has to be a way for them to limit some of this air pollution," said Blatt, a physician specializing in lung and breathing problems who has practiced in the Wheeling area for 30 years. "Oil and gas drilling is fine in areas with low-density populations. But we have people living out here right next to where they are putting these wells and compressors."
Blatt - who lives along Stone Church Road near Chesapeake's Brian Dytko pad - has "major concerns about venting these gases from this well pad by the flaring or burn-off process." He and other concerned residents have the opportunity to express their views during a public hearing held by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Air Quality. The meeting is set for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday at the West Liberty University Highlands Center in Triadelphia.
Photo by Casey Junkins
Chesapeake Energy continues to develop the Brian Dytko natural gas well pad along Stone Church Road outside Wheeling,
"I am just a member of the community," Blatt said. "I see good and bad from the gas drilling. We just need to make sure that both sides of the industry - positive and negative - are discussed in this public setting."
The specific issue to be the focus of the DEP hearing is Chesapeake's air quality permit to release several air pollutants from the Dytko well pad. The company began drilling at the well site last year, but a rig was back on site Wednesday to continue the process.
"Approximately 100 people live within 3,000 feet of this well pad. A number of families have young children and are growing up within 200 feet of this well pad," Blatt wrote in filing an objection to the Dytko pad with the West Virginia DEP.
"In particular, carbon monoxide of 40.28 tons per year will be produced by this well pad. This is of grave concern because the exposure to respiratory disease and creation of the ozone layer are toxic to lung disease," Blatt continued regarding the Dytko well.
The "potential to emit" amounts of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other chemicals that may be released at the sites can vary, according to numerous legal advertisements posted by Chesapeake. In addition to the pollution from the multiple well sites, Chesapeake also will release emissions from its local compressor stations. One of these is just off the Interstate 70 Dallas Pike exit near The Highlands, while another is in the Sand Hill area near the Marshall/Ohio County border.
Chesapeake confirmed the potential to discharge various amounts of these materials on an annual basis from the operations at the compressor stations: carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide equivalent, benzene and formaldehyde. There will also be various amounts of volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, acetaldehyde, acrolein, ethylbenzene, methanol, n-hexane, toluene, xylenes and nitrous oxide.
However, because the DEP's air quality division does not measure the cumulative environmental impact of Chesapeake's multiple sites throughout Ohio County, regulators evaluate each individual site on its own - without regard to how much pollution nearby similar well pads and/or compressor stations will release.
Stacey Brodak, senior director of corporate development for Chesapeake, emphasized the company's faith in the DEP to fairly evaluate the project.
"We support the role of the DEP to regulate the emissions at our facilities, including asking for and receiving public comments. We trust in the DEP's ability to evaluate those comments and place them in the appropriate context," she added.