Doctor: Emissions are toxic

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Last modified: 12/21/2015 4:35:53 PM
TEMPLE — While standing in the middle of the elementary school, a stone’s throw from the potential site of a 41,000-horsepower compressor station, Dr. Curtis Norgaard detailed some of the health consequences of the emissions the station could have on the surrounding area.

The compressor station is part of a plan to build a 30-inch diameter pipeline to carry natural gas from the Marcellus shale in Wright, Pennsylvania, to a gas hub in Dracut, Massachusetts. Among other New Hampshire towns, the line will cross through New Ipswich, Greenville, Rindge and Mason. Compressor stations help to push the gas through the pipe. The compressor station planned for Hillsborough County will be sited on Temple Road in New Ipswich, near the Greenville and Temple borders.

Norgaard, a Boston pediatrician, referenced studies surrounding existing compressor stations, as well as general studies on the impacts of particular pollutants. Particularly, Norgaard focused on the effects of nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde.

“These are well-established toxic emissions,” said Norgaard, who spoke to a crowd of residents from the affected towns during a meeting co-sponsored by Temple’s ad-hoc pipeline advisory committee and New Ipswich Pipeline Resistance.

Norgaard cited studies of health impacts surrounding compressor stations, where residents closer to the stations reported symptoms including throat irritation, sinus issues, headaches, respiratory issues, nosebleeds, and rashes.

Filings by the pipeline developer, Tennessee Gas Pipeline, Inc., a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, indicate that the compressor station will output about 50 tons of nitrogen dioxide per year and about 1.3 tons of formaldehyde per year. However, those numbers don’t mean much when it comes to talking about health impacts, said Norgaard.

“Tons per year is not a meaningful measurement in terms of human health,” said Norgaard. “It’s more relevant to talk about the concentrations.”

From that point of view, he said, it’s important to look at the peak times of pollution output, and not just the yearly measurements.

Based on TGP’s expected nitrogen dioxide output, and extrapolating from air pollution studies on nitrogen dioxide, it’s likely the region will see slight increases for respiratory and cardiovascular issues — about a 7 percent increase in childhood asthma diagnosis, 4.4 percent increase in clinic visits for asthma, 3.8 percent increase in asthma-related emergency room visits, and a 1.4 percent increase in respiratory deaths, according to Norgaard.

“I find this concerning,” said Norgaard. “Then there’s formaldehyde, which I find even more disturbing. Formaldehyde is dangerous. It’s an irritant. It causes cancer.”

Formaldehyde is a cancer hazard at .08 micrograms per meter, and is toxic at 10-49 micrograms per meter, and can cause cancer of the nose and throat as well as luekemia, said Norgaard. Air quality tests surrounding an existing compressor station in Pennsylvania measured formaldehyde levels at a peak of 61 micrograms at about 800 meters from the compressor station.

“I’d like you to take a look around, because we are almost exactly 790 meters from where Kinder Morgan wants to put its compressor station,” said Norgaard. “And if you really know a lot about cancer, you could argue the risk is low. It’s one in 1,000, one in 10,000, 1 in a million people. But I ask this: What is the increased risk for cancer that you feel is acceptable for your child? Let me tell you, I’ve worked with children with cancer, some of whom were cured, some of whom are in remission, and some of whom have died. Let me tell you my professional opinion. What is the acceptable risk for increased risk for childhood cancer? It’s zero.”

When quizzed about health impacts of emissions from the compressor station during an information session in Rindge earlier this month, TGP representatives pointed to emission allowances set by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which the compressor station must meet.

Norgaard pointed out that while the standards are meant to prioritize human health, the allowed emissions still will have an impact on health up to ten kilometers from the compressor station, even if those impacts are statistically small. He also pointed to a lack in the regulatory process at the federal level when it came to taking into account the population size and demographics around potentially harmful emitters, as well as what the potential health effects are or a plan to mitigate those impacts.

Norgaard encouraged local communities to have pre-construction and post-construction air quality tests done to monitor the compressor stations impact.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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