Experts Margaret Sears and Donald Davies at Baytex hearings differ widely on the health effects of emissions

Experts at Baytex hearings differ widely on the effects of emissions by Sheila Pratt, January 23, 2014, Edmonton Journal

Two independent experts provided widely different views Thursday whether emissions from bitumen tanks are causing health problems for area residents near Baytex’s operations here.

Donald Davies, a Calgary-based expert, said levels of the toxic chemicals in emissions from Baytex operations are too low to cause the health problems reported by area residents. While he noted area residents have reported symptoms like headaches, these must be caused by the strong smell which triggers an irritating reaction in some people — not the low level of toxic chemicals in the emissions, said Davies, who was hired by the Alberta Energy Regulator for an expert opinion. “These people are not being poisoned,” Davies told the hearing, later adding that “the levels are well below those capable of causing a toxic effect.”

“A growing body of literature … shows the odour itself can induce these symptoms,” Davies said, who runs Intrinsik Environmental Consulting and appears frequently at industry hearings on the issue. Davies cited studies that looked a people’s reactions to sewage treatment plants, farm odours and refineries, and cited a wide variety of factors that could make the “stress related response” worse among certain individuals. The stress reaction to the strong odour can be worse for those who do not support an industrial development or feel their concerns aren’t heard, according to research, he said.

Margaret Sears, a medical researcher at an Ottawa hospital and also hired by the regulator, said that using only the traditional “low threshold” approach — measuring to see if toxic emissions hit a certain level that would cause health problems — is not a reliable indicator. Long-term exposure to lower levels can cause the same health problems over time as short-term high exposure to some pollutants over government-set limits. “You can end up in the same place,” Sears said. Also, the traditional air-pollution limits do not take into account how certain toxic chemicals react in the body, she said.

Some of the sulphur-related chemicals found in bitumen deposits here slow the body’s capacity to get rid of the chemicals. “So the toxic effect is larger because the body can’t get rid of the chemicals as quickly, Sears said.”

“We have most of those chemicals here but we don’t know much about their toxic effects. I am very concerned some of the compounds are not being detected properly, especially reduced sulphur compounds.”

Earlier, Davies told the hearing he noticed the odours as he drove through Baytex Reno field. He said they “might be called unpleasant” but “not offensive”. He said his conclusions that the level of emissions was not toxic should provide some reassurance to residents. “The level of chemicals is just not high enough to have health impacts.” Earlier on Thursday, a Baytex expert acknowledged that he measured emissions from only one of four storage tanks on each of the company’s well sites to calculate the amount of emissions from its oilsand operations.

Keith Wilson, the lawyer for area residents, then displayed video taken by regulator staff with infrared cameras showing emissions from all four tanks. The company has only measured emissions from 27 of its 86 tanks, Wilson said. He said there are emissions from other tanks. Baytex said the one video shown at the hearing was during an equipment malfunction in 2010. Other videos from 2011 and 2012 were also submitted.

Colley also said emissions from other tanks would be mostly water vapour. But resident Doug Dallyn told the hearing it was his understanding that other hydrocarbon chemicals also went up in the water vapour. Baytex told the hearing earlier this week that it intended to have vapour recovery units installed on its bitumen tanks within six months of getting all the necessary approvals and that had been its plan all along. [Emphasis added]

Balancing health and the oilpatch by Lethbridge Herald, January 23, 2014
If health problems are linked to exposure to petrochemicals, people need to know. Science has long known about the link between environmental toxins and human health. That’s why there are regulations governing everything from household consumer products to the heavy industry sector. But a report which came to light this week suggests a hesitance on the part of some Alberta doctors to consider if their patients’ health conditions could have been caused by long-term exposure to petrochemicals. Opposition politicians raised the issue in the legislature this week, voicing concern about the report which was prepared for the Alberta Energy Regulator in connection with a hearing taking place in Peace River. The hearing involves complaints by landowners in the area about odours that they blame on the local oil industry.

Dr. John O’Connor, a doctor who was disciplined in 2007 for raising cancer concerns in the northern Alberta oilpatch town of Fort Chipewyan, told the Canadian Press he wasn’t surprised by the hesitance of the medical community. O’Connor was later vindicated after the Alberta Cancer Board found elevated levels of four different cancers in the community. The report raises concerns, and with good reason. We count on doctors to have their patients’ best interests in mind when dealing with their health problems. It’s disconcerting to consider the possibility that some doctors might be hesitant to follow medical leads that could implicate the oilpatch as a likely cause of those problems. The Alberta economy is largely built on the oil industry and that industry shouldn’t be unfairly demonized. By the same token, if emissions from the industry are adversely affecting the health of citizens, that information shouldn’t be covered up.

Some firm, unbiased research would go a long way toward helping many Albertans who live in oilpatch communities get to the bottom of their health problems. And it would also help with establishing some policy guidelines to protect people’s health in the future. [Emphasis added]

Rural Alberta says:
January 23, 2014 at 11:01 PM
“Further study of the health effects of oil industry emissions makes good sense. There seems to be money available for all kinds of inconsequential research that has little practical value; certainly money can be found for research into this area that often pits citizens against the juggernaut petrochemical industry.”

Found $ome … oh, too late.

January 23, 2014 – “The head of the Centre of Excellence in Mining and Innovation in Sudbury says deep underground mining research could change how oil and gas companies approach fracking in the future.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced CEMI will receive $15 million for research in ultra-deep mining.

The government said the research could assist the oil and gas industry to improve its ability when extracting deep shale deposits. The federal government has announced Sudbury’s Centre of Excellence in Mining and Innovation is receiving $15 million for research in ultra deep mining.

The president and CEO of CEMI said deep mining research could allow those companies to have a better understanding of the impact of fracking.

… ‘It’s not really a large part of what we want to do, it’s just we have the kinds of facilities that they can use also to improve their operations.’”


[Refer also to:

B.C. gas-well health study by Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc. called into question An environmental group says they are concerned a company hired by the B.C. government to study oil and gas health risks in the Peace Region may be biased because of its previous work for the industry. The group, the Peace Environment and Safety Trustees Society, says Calgary-based Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc. has previous involvement with the oil and gas industry. Society spokesman Tim Ewert said Intrinsik was hired by EnCana Corporation after a sour gas leak in 2009 and spoke with residents about how sour gas was affecting their health. “We felt during their presentation that they down-played the dangers of [sour gas] extremely well,” Ewert said. Ewert worries the study will downplay residents’ concerns once again.

Intrinsik spokesman Bart Koppe insists that won’t happen. You know, our work is strictly dictated by science and our interpretation of science cannot and never be influenced by our client,” Koppe said. [Emphasis added]

Study: Co-exposures of two chemicals at safe levels doubles chances of cancer

Chemical toxicology in the fracking zone at  34:20 The major problem is the mixture problem. And I can’t overemphasize how serious that is in trying to understand what’s going on… The presence of one agent can increase the toxicity of another agent by several fold.

TINY DOSES OF GAS DRILLING CHEMICALS MAY HAVE BIG HEALTH EFFECTS, Authors of new study encourage more low-dose testing of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, with implications for the debate on natural gas drilling

First Study of Its Kind Detects 44 Hazardous Air Pollutants at Gas Drilling Sites, With gas wells in some states being drilled near schools and homes, scientists see a need for better chemical disclosure laws and follow-up research

Marcellus gas compressor stations and processing plants, near to one another or even linked, are evaluated individually for pollution to ensure that oil and gas industry doesn’t have to implement emissions controls; this is the same in Alberta

Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in ground and surface water at fracking sites, Peer reviewed study of fracking sites in Garfield County Colorado finds chemicals linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer

B.C. school kids in danger, can suffer DNA damage illness from leaking sour gas several km away, yet B.C. allows wells within 100 m (~330 feet) of schools while Dallas City Council votes in 1,500 foot setback from homes and wells!

LISTEN: The Current: What happens when oil drilling and frac’ing, with 400 ppm deadly H2S, is too close to homes and schools?

Baytex commits at public AER hearing to capture tank-top emissions; the regulator granting harmed Albertans a hearing occurs rarely – like winning the lottery

Updated: AER hearing into Baytex bitumen emissions underway in Peace River; families hope the AER will make the company clean up

Health report: some Alberta doctors refused to treat families exposed to toxic emissions by Baytex in Peace Country, one lab refused to process a test; 10 day public hearing starts Tuesday

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