By Mark Jaffe – The Denver Post 05/05/2012
Sitting on a tower just above the rooftops in the town of Erie, a coffin-size instrument automatically sucks in air, freezes it with liquid nitrogen and analyzes it for up to 100 compounds.
What the round-the-clock sampling has detected is a brew of airborne chemicals, including traces of hazardous pollutants such as benzene, according to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The likely source: oil and gas development in the region.
“What’s in the air? As a mother, you can’t help but worry,” said Jen Palazzolo, an Erie resident with two children and the spokeswoman for Erie Rising, a local advocacy group.
From Texas to Colorado, there is growing evidence that oil and gas fields are leaking a wide range of chemicals — raising concern both in communities where drilling is taking place and in the industry
“The initial studies are limited in scope and varied, but they indicate there is an issue,” said Steve Hamburg, chief scientist with the national environmental group Environmental Defense Fund.
There is, however, not sufficient data to know precisely what is coming out of the fields and how it is dispersing, researchers say.