- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) — A study in a rural Ohio county where oil and gas drilling is booming found air pollution levels near well sites higher than those in downtown Chicago.

A team from the University of Cincinnati and Oregon State University placed 25 monitors as close as one-tenth of a mile from gas wells in Carroll County, about 100 miles south of Cleveland. The monitoring occurred over a three-week period in February.

The monitors detected 32 types of hydrocarbon-based compounds, some of which are found in vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke and are produced when materials are burned.

The researchers would not discuss the specifics of their findings. They plan additional monitoring to produce more precise measurements that account for drilling activity, wind and weather. They also plan to analyze wrist monitors that some residents living near wells wore for three weeks.

Erin Haynes, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati, said Carroll County was chosen for the study because of residents’ concerns about hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking. The researchers hope to eventually determine if fracking harms people’s health.

Carroll County is located on the Utica shale, which lies beneath portions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. The state reports there are 282 active fracking wells in Carroll County

“All of our members operating in Carroll County are meeting and exceeding objectives set by the Clean Air Act,” said Shawn Bennett, senior vice president for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Two residents who had monitors on their property complained about noise and unpleasant odors wafting onto their property during drilling. Haynes said previous studies have shown that noise topped the list of complaints about fracking.

Kathryn King raises a flock of heritage turkeys on three acres in the southeast corner of Carroll County. She said the initial problems with the drilling operations were loud noises at all hours and reverberations that would make her windows rattle.

She said the pungent odors from the drilling burn her nostrils when it’s especially bad. King gets paid royalties - around $1,000 a month - for the gas being extracted beneath her land, but wishes that fracking had never come to Carroll County.

“This used to be such an awesome county, so pristine, so clean,” King said. “There’s a whole myriad of things going on that are not good.”

Soybean farmer Al Butz said fracking has been viewed as an economic Godsend by this impoverished county that’s part of Ohio’s Appalachian region. He also rues the day that drilling rigs arrived.

“It was a pristine place,” Butz said. “Then all hell breaks loose.”

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