FORT WORTH — Lingering questions about possible dangerous emissions from gas drilling prompted Fort Worth's mayor to call for independent testing Tuesday afternoon.
Mayor Mike Moncrief said the city will pay for the tests from oil and gas revenues. Most City Council members agreed that they wanted more answers
Results of state testing released last month showed levels of benzene above the state's benchmark for long-term health concerns at or near about half of the 44 facilities included in the study. Regulators caution, however, that some of the facilities are very close together, so it wasn't always possible to figure out which one was responsible for the toxin.
The initial testing focused on areas outside of Fort Worth, particularly to the west and northwest. There are some 1,600 gas well sites inside Fort Worth city limits.
Many residents are concerned. Council members say they need more answers on what drilling in the Barnett Shale might be doing to the air.
"I just don't feel comfortable voting on these wells when it seems like every week we're hearing different information," said City Council member Kathleen Hicks.
Mayor Moncrief proposed a broad set of independent tests at many sites — in warm and cold weather — paid for by the city.
Councilman Zim Zimmerman suggested stronger action. "I might suggest this is a good time to hit the pause button, and not just look at the air quality issue, but review everything that has to do with wells," he said.
Moncrief said the additional tests should give residents a comfort zone. But State Rep. Lon Burnam says the best comfort zone would be a moratorium on drilling within the city.