From New West:

Residents of Battlement Mesa, a sprawling housing development in western Colorado, are used to seeing the golf course from their windows, not gas rigs. But when an energy company announced plans to start drilling inside the subdivision, residents became concerned not just about the noise and the traffic, but the health effects of air and water pollution.

“I can understand gas drilling,” says Bob Arrington, a retired engineer and former bed-and-breakfast owner who bought a home in Battlement Mesa three years ago, when gas drilling amid the residential development was the farthest thing from his mind. “But when they go into urban areas, I think they have a much higher obligation to mitigate and protect the health of people than when they’re operating out in the boondocks.”

He and other neighbors asked Garfield County to fund a heath impact assessment to see if any health harms might come from the drilling operations. They received a blunt answer. Researchers found air emissions from natural gas operations will probably make some residents sick.

“The key findings of our study are that health of the Battlement Mesa residents will most likely be affected by chemical exposures, accidents or emergencies resulting from industry operations and stress-related community changes,” researchers concluded.

Industry representatives have long downplayed the health risks of emissions from natural gas operations, but this assessment, performed by the Colorado School of Public Health, insisted that drilling operations have already harmed the air in Garfield County, and that new operations in a dense subdivision could bring more impacts.

Without proper pollution prevention measures, researchers found, air pollution will likely “be high enough to cause short-term and long-term disease, especially for residents living near wells. Health effects may include respiratory disease, neurological problems, birth defects and cancer.”

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