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VOC Emissions


Air pollution from hydrofracking come in many varieties. There is dust from truck traffic, dust from construction, and diesel fumes which are easily appreciated by our eyes and our noses. But one of the most toxic types of air pollution is insidiously invisible to our eyes. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, such as benzene and formaldehyde (yes, the same stinky stuff that that frog in biology class was preserved in), are released both intentionally and unintentionally from gas collection and treatment equipment. These chemicals contribute to asthma- inducing smog, are toxic to our organs and significantly raise the risk of cancer to those who inhale them. While our eyes cannot detect these emissions, infrared photography has recorded dramatic clouds of black VOCs issuing from gas facilities.  Infrared also reveals escaping methane.


Photographs by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

To the naked eye, no emissions from an oil storage tank are visible, but viewed with an infrared lens, escaping methane is evident.

In the west where hydrofracking has been used to extract gas from the Barnett  and Haynesville shale formations, elevated levels of  benzene were documented by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in Dish, Texas due to leaky compressor stations.  A Health Impact Study conducted by the  Public Health Department in Garfield County, Colorado also documented unhealthy spikes of VOCs.

An air quality permit issued b the WV Air Quality Board allowing Chesapeake Energy to operate 18 compressors within a 3-mile area is being challenged by a group of Wetzel County landowners.  These concerned citizens have organized a the Wetzel County Action Group (  The issue is that currently each compressor station is evaluated individually rather than collectively.  The argument of the Wetzel group is that, collectively, the emissions exceed air quality standards of safety.

This generates an immediate problem for residents who live locally as well as contributing to smog in more distant places downwind.


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