Air tested near airport at planned drilling area

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The Allegheny County Health Department has begun monitoring air quality near Pittsburgh International Airport in anticipation of the natural gas drilling planned for the area.

Jim Thompson, deputy director of environmental health for the department, said Friday that monitoring, which will measure for 61 different "volatile organic compounds," began March 6.

The health department announced in January that it would monitor for air pollution before and after drilling begins on about 9,000 acres of county-owned land near the airport.

Consol Energy plans to construct six well pads, with at least 45 Marcellus and Upper Devonian shale wells and three water impoundments. The timetable calls for initial drilling of wells starting in July.

Mr. Thompson announced the start of the air monitoring Wednesday night in Findlay, where township officials held a public hearing over conditional use permits sought by Consol for its drilling operations. No decision was made on the permits at the meeting.

The air monitor, located on Ponderosa Drive in Findlay's Imperial Pointe neighborhood, is collecting baseline samples. That data will be compared with samples taken after drilling begins.

The county has no data from the air monitor yet, because analysis is conducted by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lab in Maryland and results take about a month.

Mr. Thompson said the Health Department plans to conduct air monitoring at least a year past the start of drilling.

R. Russell Lucas Jr., a solicitor for Findlay, said Wednesday the township is interested in having air monitoring continue well beyond the first year.

Mr. Thompson said the length of the sampling will depend on what the monitoring finds.

"If we find something that we are concerned about, the monitoring will continue longer," he said.

Kaitlynn Riely: or 412-263-1707.

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