Battlement Mesa Health Impact Assessment

February 7, 2011

Update – March 21, 2011: The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to extend the public comment period on the 2nd draft Battlement Mesa Health Impact Assessment for 30 days. The new cutoff for public comments is 5 p.m., April 27, 2011.

March 1, 2011

Revised Battlement Mesa Health Impact Assessment Report Released for Public Comment

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO (March 1, 2011) – Garfield County Public Health seeks public comments on a report summarizing the potential health impacts of natural gas development and production in the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development. Public review and comment is invited for one month, through Wednesday, April 27, 2011, at 5 p.m. MDT.

The report, released March 1, 2011, is the second draft of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) originally released in September 2010. After an extended public comment period late last year, the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners granted a contract extension to the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) to engage the community in further dialogue regarding the extensive number of comments received.

The revised report incorporates new data sources, which became available after the first draft was released. The recommendations in the revised report are more specific than those in the first draft, per the Board of County Commissioners’ request. The revised report also includes significant changes in response to public comments on the first draft of the report. To make the process transparent, all of the public comments received on the first draft are included in an appendix, as are the official CSPH responses to each comment.

As with the original HIA report, the revised HIA report examines information that is currently available on the environmental, social and health status of Battlement Mesa and its residents. The report compares this baseline information with a review of known health impacts of natural gas drilling to estimate what health impacts might be expected from natural gas drilling in Battlement Mesa.

The HIA takes a look into a variety of potential impacts, including:

  • Impacts on air, water and soil
  • Impacts of traffic patterns and greater traffic volumes
  • Economic and social effects

The report goes on to suggest potential ways in which Garfield County may be able to reduce health risks for the community and maximize the benefits that natural gas development can bring to a county. The wide-ranging and numerous recommendations fall into three main categories, which are:

  • Reduce exposure to industrial chemicals
  • Promote safe industrial operations
  • Foster effective communication between stakeholders

In addition to recommendations regarding health and safety, the report identifies some of the major information gaps that should be filled in order to help the county take health impacts into consideration as part of its decision-making. “The report responds directly to serious concerns that Battlement Mesa residents have had, and puts extensive research on the table for their review,” says Jim Rada, Environmental Health Manager for Garfield County Public Health and project manager for the HIA.

The assessment was prepared by a team of environmental and public health experts from the Colorado School of Public Health, University of Colorado Denver. The team of researchers, which includes experts in public health, epidemiology, environmental health, environmental chemistry, exposure assessment, and environmental medicine, used this information, as well as the scientific literature, to estimate the potential health impacts of natural gas development in Battlement Mesa.

The Battlement Mesa HIA is available for download on the Garfield County website. For a comment to be considered in the final Health Impact Assessment, the comment must be submitted according to the process outlined on the Garfield County Public Health website before April 27, 2011 at 5 pm MDT.

The CSPH team will respond to comments and questions in the final version of the report.

The project is led by Roxana Witter, MD, MS, MSPH, Assistant Research Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. Health Impact Assessment is a public health tool for helping to maintain or improve the health of communities. It’s an emerging approach to using available information to help inform decision-making. “By requesting and supporting this HIA, the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners has been proactive in its efforts to protect its citizens,” said Dr. Witter.