Fracking Concerns Lead To New Air Quality Monitoring in Texas County

As concerns continue to mount throughout the United States about the potential health risks associated with hydraulic fracturing operations, more commonly known as “fracking”, one Texas County is beginning to monitor air quality to help health officials track and gauge potential side effects of the controversial gas extraction mining in the area. 

The Center for Public Integrity announced earlier this month that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has agreed to place an air monitor in Karnes County, which is a hotbed of fracking operations.

The decision came following a report earlier this year by CPI, InsideClimate News and the Weather Channel, which showed that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality knew virtually nothing about air quality in the area.

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The report also revealed that the state of Texas experienced a 100% increase in unplanned toxic air releases from September 2009 to August 2013, associated with oil and gas production. Companies in the state are virtually never fined, even when it is found that they are operating equipment improperly, CPI reports.

Fracking Health Problems

The CPI announcement also comes just days after the release of a report called “Project Playground” by ShaleTest Environmental Testing, which found high levels of cancer-causing agents in the air over playgrounds near fracking wells. The levels of benzene and some other known carcinogens far surpassed levels considered to be safe.

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing involves the injection of a mixture of water, sand and fluids, which the gas industry has fought to keep secret, into the ground at extremely high pressure, cracking shale deposits and freeing trapped natural gas, which can then be removed. Those fluids are then sucked from the ground and often disposed of in wastewater wells.

The controversial process has come under increasing scrutiny over the last several years, as it has become an increasingly popular method of gas extraction with the development of new drilling techniques and the discovery of large shale reserves throughout the eastern seaboard. It first began to boom in Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin region, but now it has spread across the east coast in thousands of well sites in New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

There are a number of other environmental concerns surrounding the fracking process. Residents near hydraulic fracturing sites have reported dust problems, and claim that the fracking fluids contain pollutants that contaminate groundwater.

More recently, a number of studies have shown that there may be a link between fracking and earthquakes, suggesting that the intense pressure from the unidentified fluids can cause ground tremors violent enough to damage property and cause injuries and possibly deaths.

Earlier this year, Texas jury awarded $2.9 million in damages to a family who sued a hydraulic fracturing company for being a public nuisance. According allegations raised in a fracking lawsuit filed by the Parr family, nearly two dozen wells near their property caused a private nuisance, exposing them to toxic chemicals that damaged their health and lowered property value.

Environmentalists, a number of lawmakers, local communities and consumer advocacy groups have expressed concerns for years that hydrofracking presents a threat to groundwater supplies and the environment.

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