For residents with nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and watery eyes living near development of Extraction’s 84 well project near their neighborhoods, it has been very frustrating to be told by the City and County of Broomfield (CCOB) that its very expensive Air Quality Monitoring (AQM) System showed no anomalies. Broomfield City Council responded at their December 10 Broomfield City Council Meeting by directing staff to greatly enhance Broomfield’s Air Quality Monitoring (AQM) Program, with the goal to be able to better detect the causes of the health impacts. (Dec 10 item https://drive.google.com/file/d/1nuxrHe2-AxMT-6z1IQOeItruajkfhSBA/view ) The AQM has been in operation since March 2019 when Extraction Oil and Gas, LLC began oil and gas development operations for 84 wells on 6 pads in dense, residential neighborhoods across northern Broomfield.
The contracts for the new AQM are being prepared by Staff and will be presented to Council for approval at a special Council meeting on Tuesday, December 17. There will be separate contracts issued to Ajax/CSU and Boulder A.I.R., run by Dr. Detlev Helmig of CU. The current contract with just Ajax/CSU expires on December 31. The Operator Agreement with Extraction only requires Extraction to contribute $20,000 annually to CCOB’s AQM.
What Was Approved?
It was recognized that any combined systems needed to account for spatial coverage across the Extraction pads, the ability to capture samples in reaction to spikes, and the ability to collect a broad range of chemical data to correlate to resident health impacts.
On December 10, Council directed Staff to write up contracts for the following:
– 15 Monitoring Stations with APIS Sensors and Trigger Canisters by Ajax/CSU, at a cost of $729,000 and available in about a month.
– Plume Tracker by CSU, included in cost and already in use.
– Stationary Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometer by Ajax/CSU, at a cost of $120,000 annually and available in 6 weeks.
– 1 deluxe Mobile Online Gas Chromatography (OGC) by Dr. Detlev Helmig and Boulder A.I.R., at a cost of $532,241, likely to be placed at Soaring Eagle Park slightly northeast of the Livingston Pad in about 2 months.
– 1 smaller Stationary Online Gas Chromatography (OGC) by Dr. Detlev Helmig and Boulder A.I.R., at a cost of about $175,000 and likely to be placed on the Open Space next to the Northwest Pad in about 3 months after infrastructure is complete.
The entire cost will be about $1.57 million for 2020 and $1.15 million every year after that.
Council Members Anderson, Castriotta, Jezierski, Lim and Shaff all voted in favor of a new AQM Program that did not include Ajax/CSU’s enhanced APIS sensors and trigger canisters during the December 10 meeting. Their stated preference was to include the current Ajax/CSU sensor and canister system and two Online Gas Chromatography OGC Stations. Council Member Lim stated during that same meeting that Ajax had been given time to show that their APIS sensors and trigger canisters were reliable technology but had not done so. She explained that the APIS sensors could be triggered by other VOC sources than oil and gas, creating false positive scenarios where canisters would be triggered and not quickly replaced to capture real events. Ajax admitted at the December 10 meeting that they would need to experiment with the system in place in Broomfield and that the length of the trigger canister sample should be determined by the CCOB. Council Member Anderson expressed complete confidence that Dr. Helmig’s systems could collect the necessary data and also be valuable in conjunction with data from his Boulder Reservoir and Longmont Stations. Council Member Shaff expressed concern that the Ajax data set from the previous three quarters could not be compared to the new data that would be gathered.
CCOB Public Health Director Jason Vahling recommended that CCOB buy the new APIS sensors and trigger canisters along with 1 deluxe mobile Online Gas Chromatography (OGC), stating that he thought the new APIS sensors would work to catch transient plumes that the OGC might miss. Council Member Lindstedt asked if the money could also be found for the second smaller Stationary Online Gas Chromatography OGC and staff responded they would find it at Council’s direction. Council Member Henkel asked if service-level requirements could be placed in the Ajax/CSU contract. The vote on the entire package costing $1.57 million for 2020 was 5- 5, with Mayor Quinn providing the tiebreaking vote in favor of the entire package.
Health Symptoms Made This Necessary
It was the fact that residents have been reporting health impacts that made it necessary to seek an improved Air Quality Monitoring Program to better detect the causes of the health impacts. Both children and adults living near the pads have reported nosebleeds, headaches, nausea and watery eyes. This is consistent with the findings of the new Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) study which finds similar health impacts for those living within 2,000 feet of oil and gas development.
At the AQM Council Study Session on December 3, several residents pled for a stop to Extraction oil and gas development until the cause of the health impacts that they and their children were experiencing could be determined. At that session, Anthem Ranch resident and former Oil and Gas Task Force member Susan Speece described how she finally connected her health symptoms of irritated eyes and throats to the days that Extraction was pulling pipe from the Livingston Pad during the drilling phase, particularly on November 1, 5 and 7. Canister samples on those bad symptom days showed significantly elevated levels of isoprene still below state thresholds, for which no one has been able to attribute a source. Also at the December 3 Study Session, CDPHE Toxicologist Kristy Richardson admitted that the State and Federal Guidelines for VOCs are outdated and there is no research on the health impacts of the combination of chemicals to which residents are being exposed.
During the third quarter Air Quality Monitoring Report on December 3, it was reported by Ajax that canister data showed that there were unexplained benzene spikes from August 22 through August 29 at the Interchange B Pad. Extraction was using coiled tubing units on Interchange B to mill out the plugs that were installed in wells that were recently hydraulically fractured, but there was still no explanation for the benzene spikes over three months later. Ajax presented this as an event for which better data would be gathered with the new APIS sensors and trigger canisters.
Residents can write Council before the December 17 meeting to state their support or concerns with the proposed AQM at email@example.com.