Academic says state probes on health effects of drilling missed mark

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 02, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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Texas missed an opportunity to delve deeply into possible health effects of natural gas production on nearby communities when it examined cases in Flower Mound and Dish, according to a University of Texas lecturer and researcher in the UT School of Architecture.

In a paper published last year in the Virginia Environmental Law Journal, Rachael Rawlins looked at existing data and studies on air emissions in the Barnett Shale and state efforts to monitor potentially harmful effects. She concludes that “state and federal regulatory programs do not effectively address cumulative emissions in urban areas, the risk of malfunctions in equipment, encroaching land uses, or the potential interactive effects of mixtures of chemicals.”

Rawlins takes to task the Texas Department of State Health Services’ finding in 2010 (updated in 2011) that a cluster of leukemia cases in Flower Mound were within an expected range of occurrences, and the frequency of breast cancer was statistically greater than expected but “likely” the result of rapid population growth. She thinks the health department looked at too large a geographical area — two zip codes that encompass most of the city’s population in the leukemia cases —and demanded too high a certainty of proof to link higher breast cancer reports to environmental contaminants.

In Dish, southwest of Denton, DSHS tested 28 residents after complaints were filed about emissions from a compressor station in the small town. But it found no results “consistent with a community-wide exposure to airborne contaminants.” Such limited study “may serve more as a vehicle to placate community concerns” than investigate health issues, Rawlins concludes.

“We need better coordination and research supported by both health and environmental agencies working together. We also need to think carefully about setbacks, and planning to minimize cumulative emissions,” Rawlins told us in an email.

Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for DSHS in Austin, said the agency was reviewing Rawlins’ paper. Williams noted that in Flower Mound, “our cancer experts and epidemiologists issued the state’s analysis in 2010 in response to community concerns at the time. This type of analysis looks at whether there is more cancer in the area that we would expect, not whether there is association with environmental or other risk factors.”

The city of Flower Mound on Monday said it had just been made aware of the paper, and had reached out to Rawlins for more explanation.

Colonial getting new entrance and activities

Spectators at this year’s Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial will have a new main entrance to the golf tournament.

The entrance will encompass the park area immediately east of the golf course and will feature attractions such as interactive golf games and live music, tournament officials said.

The tournament will be held May 19-25. Frost Bank is sponsoring the new entrance venue.

Spectators arriving in shuttles will be dropped at the park area along Colonial Parkway. They will proceed immediately into the interactive games area, then past an area for live music during evenings after play ends, and then into the tournament’s Fan Fest expo tent.

The new areas will be free to the public each day, as well as event ticket holders.

After leaving the Fan Fest tent, spectators will reach a new security checkpoint, near the west end of the park and Rogers Road, which will be closed to vehicle traffic. Fans will show their credentials and will be wanded by security personnel, a new PGA Tour requirement, before proceeding. From there, spectators will walk along Rogers Road into a new golf course entrance near the fourth hole.

“This new area gives us some room to do things that we just couldn’t do before, as well as room to grow,” said Bobby Patton, tournament chairman. “Equally important, this makes sure we have ample space to comfortably screen all participants upon entry according to PGA Tour security guidelines.”

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552

Twitter: @jimfuquay

Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718

Twitter: @bshlachter

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

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