Benzene Spike on March 24th, March 25th Emphasizes Residents’ Concern, Anxiety During Pandemic

In a recent post, the City and County of Broomfield reported that there was a “series of anomalous TVOC Indicator activity from 8:40 pm on 3/24 through the morning of 3/25.”   This document cited that the event on 3/25 was a “sustained” event that lasted around 1.5 hours. It is uncertain if this activity was from one single event or a series of separate air-quality events. Trigger canisters were activated both at the Livingston 01 site just west of the 18-well Livingston pad and at the Anthem Ranch location, which suggests that this may have been a far-reaching chemical release. Extraction was conducting milling and tubing operations at the time.

There were two triggers to the sensor near the Livingston pad, triggered on both March 24th and 25th. Results from these sample collections show this was a “relatively long but variable elevated event”. The VOCs measured include Benzene level at 20.4 ppbv and indicated that the “results suggest the air mass sampled was strongly influenced by emissions of oil and gas activities.”  Based on the data, it is estimated that the average Benzene levels for 1-hr and 3-hr exposures were above 10 ppbv. The AJAX report estimates that the exposure rate to Benzene for the 1-hour duration following the first trigger canister event was 22 ppbv, which is more than twice the concentration federal health-based guidelines of 9 ppb.

On 3/25, canister readings collected and reported by AJAX Analytics at another location in Anthem Ranch “suggested multiple plumes were encountered” and again reaffirms the data has a “strong oil and gas signature.”  Benzene was over 11.9 ppbv in this sample. Anthem Ranch is an over-55 community reserved for senior citizens.

Residents have continuously registered concerns regarding oil and gas operations continuing prior to and during the COVID-19 health crisis, including delivering a petition with nearly five hundred signatures to the Broomfield City Council.  Exposure to toxic chemicals like Benzene and others (BTEX) from oil and gas operations in Broomfield neighborhoods have been the focus of citizen concern and pushback for several years. During a respiratory epidemic, the concern is obviously more punctuated, especially as chemicals like Benzene, in addition to being a carcinogen, is also a respiratory irritant.   According to the EPA, “acute (short-term) inhalation exposure of humans to benzene may cause drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, as well as eye, skin, and respiratory tract irritation.”  Per the CDC, acute exposure in the levels that Broomfield residents may have been exposed also includes compromised immune systems—something residents of Broomfield definitely don’t need right now. Residents believe that pausing operations near the site is imperative to prevent these types of exposures from happening during a pandemic that causes breathing difficulties.  

Extraction Oil and Gas and the City and County of Broomfield are currently engaged in a lawsuit over the possibility of pausing operations during the pandemic.  The City maintains they have the right to pass health orders to protect public health and safety during a state of local emergency.  Extraction argues that the City is acting in “bad faith” and is attempting to stop the City from using its powers to protect its residents.  Extraction also indicated in this complaint that “well organized” resident groups are fueling the complaints regarding this project, essentially dismissing the very real concerns of the surrounding communities and its very legitimately impacted community members. 

Residents of Broomfield continue to stand in solidarity, asking for relief from oil and gas emissions during these tumultuous times.  As this data demonstrates, the concerns and anxiety over chemical exposures from oil and gas operations are warranted and should be immediately addressed by all levels of government. 

If you had acute health symptoms during these days or following, you can still report them here.

If you wish to write Council about your concerns regarding these spikes, you can write at  

You can read the entire report here .

To read the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) complaint from Extraction in full, click here