Activists blast compressor study
ELDRED, NY — The Sullivan County Legislature on October 9 released a baseline study assessing the air, water and noise near the site of the compressor station being constructed by Millennium Pipeline, LLC near Eldred. The county chose KC Engineering (KC) to conduct the study over the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SPEHP).
KC tested the air, water and noise levels at various locations within half a mile of the compressor, but critics, such as George Billard, the founder of Sullivan County Residents Against Millenium (SCRAM), say the testing wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it should have been. In testing the air, for example, KC measured levels of such things as nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane and mercury, but Billard said they did not test for substances such as formaldehyde, toluene and benzene, which are produced by other compressor stations and known to be hazardous to human health (see page 7 for a short version of Billard’s letter to the editor, and www.riverreporter.com under “My Views” for a full-length version).
Billard said that when the study was announced in 2016, his organization and many members of the community were pushing for a full health-impact study. SPEHP had earlier conducted such a study of the Minisink compressor, some 28 miles south from Highland along the Millennium Pipeline, and found that people living near that facility had headaches, rashes and respiratory problems. The study said, “The episodic nature of health symptoms reported by residents is likely associated with the episodic high emissions that come from the compressor station.” There is also a compressor station some 28 miles north of Highland along the pipeline, in Hancock.
Billard said, “When they announced the study, the whole idea was ‘we’ve got these two facilities, we can find out exactly what’s [being produced]. Two-and-a-half years later what we have is what the water and air look like now, under these narrow parameters.”
Maya van Rossum, the leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), agreed that the study is of limited value. “We knew going into this that this was going to be a highly deficient study. It was too little money, too little analysis, coming too late in the process. The DRN was concerned that Millennium Pipeline would have too much of a say over what was going to be analyzed because they were the only player putting in what would be, frankly, the relatively miniscule amount of money that went into the analysis.” (The amount Millenium provided was $50,000).
She added, “All the way around this was a political show, for some members of the county legislature and primarily for Millennium, and we are really disappointed in Sullivan County for their lack of leadership and lack of care.”
Regarding the decision to pursue a baseline study rather than a health-impact study, Sullivan County Communications Director Dan Hust wrote in an email, “My understanding is legislators were concerned the health-impact study would be unwieldy because of the need to track the health history and behavior of residents, along with the expense of the monitoring required for the results (and any conclusions to be drawn from those results) to be relevant and reliable.”
Billard also accused the county of unequal treatment of the two entities who applied to conduct the study. SPEHP was asked to respond to number of questions as to whether any SPEHP principals or team members been involved in litigation or claims, served as an expert witness, or been associated with SCRAM or another Sullivan County environmental group Sullivan Area Citizens for Sustainable Energy Development (SACRED). KC was not asked these same questions.
Hust wrote, “Due to the heightened sensitivity surrounding the Highland Compressor Station project, the county legislature wanted to ensure that the baseline study be undertaken in an objective manner by an entity that did not have a predisposition toward the outcome.”