Questions raised over Fort Worth air testing

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by CHRIS HAWES / WFAA/TV

wfaa.com

Posted on January 23, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 23 at 4:43 PM

There's new information on testing near natural gas facilities in Fort Worth.

State and city officials publicly proclaimed that, at more than 100 sites visited, the cancer-causing toxin benzene wasn't detected.
But as Channel 8 has found what TCEQ deputy director John Sadlier didn't say was that, in most cases, they didn't test for it. 
 
Sadlier arrived with fanfare at last week's Fort Worth City Council meeting, beginning by telling council, "Everything you hear today will be good news." He told council benzene, a cancer causing toxin, was found at none of the 126 sites visited in Fort Worth over three days. "So for the 126 sites we looked at, the eight canister samples we obtained, benzene was not detected."
 
City Council happily accepted the news as Sadlier said that "based on this study, the air is safe."
 
But as Channel 8 has learned, Sadlier wasn't giving council members the whole story. TCEQ did not test for benzene at 118 sites. TCEQ said a toxic vapor analyzer, designed to reveal the total amounts of chemicals in the air, revealed they didn't have to. "Very few of those sites did we have detectable limits," Sadlier.
 
What Sadlier didn't explain, was what he actually meant by detectable. Channel 8 has learned that TCEQ investigators are only required to collect an air sample, if the total chemicals in the air are more than 140 times the average amount for the metroplex. TCEQ stresses that investigators also consider smells and visible emissions when deciding to take an air sample, and point out the air sample canisters are costly - about $500 a piece.
 
Eight air samples were taken as part of the Fort Worth survey. None contained elevated benzene levels. But for activists we talked with across the Barnett Shale, the cost is worth it.
 
Results of air samples taken at 30 facilities around the barnett Shale are expected next week.
 
 

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