This includes air quality and exposure through the consumption of locally grown goods – such as food and water.
“After careful review and analysis, the study found that the risk to human health from emissions from oil and gas activities in the northeast remains low,” says Health Minister Terry Lake.
The assessment also included a regulatory review of the current policies in place to monitor the long term development of the industry in the northeast. While it found the regulatory framework is “extensive and broadly protective”, according to the Ministry of Health, it also found room for improvement.
These areas include emergency planning, flaring, venting and fugitive emission management, hydraulic fracturing, information management, and environmental monitoring.
“The data and information compiled will serve as a valuable baseline for monitoring the health effects of future development of natural gas and other resource activities in our region,” said Peace River North MLA Pat Pimm. “It will help us continue to protect our Peace country residents’ health and wellbeing while we grow our region and province’s economic health through these carefully managed activities.”
In terms of public safety, it’s recommended the provincial government update the methods for calculating hazard distances and emergency planning zones. It also recommends an update on land use and setback provisions, with equal consideration of applications from oil and gas, as well as land development activities.
The government’s environmental monitoring and health surveillance has a number of recommendations.
The assessment recommends a verification of air quality predictions and human health risks as new monitoring data becomes available. It also recommends and expansion of aquifer and vulnerability mapping; an expansion of studying groundwater and surface water interactions within shallow aquifers, as well as ground water flow conditions for the purpose of assessing potential contaminant fate and migration; and finally, an expansion of environmental monitoring to include things like biota, soil and water quality. It also recommends tailoring health surveillance to study health outcomes in areas with the highest predicted air concentration.
When looking at the current flaring, venting and fugitive emission management, the assessment recommends the B.C. Ambient Air Quality Objectives guide its regulatory policies.
The assessment also recommends the consideration of baseline pre-drilling groundwater testing requirement, as well as refining the fracturing fluid disclosure process.
In terms of information management, it’s been recommended the provincial government review efficiencies of their databases managing permits, facility information, wells and flares data.
In total, there are 14 recommendations, and Minister Lake says he is considering each one. He also says the government has already begun implementing these recommendations, and will continue to do so.
“While we recognize that no report can be all things to all people, I feel confident that this study is a comprehensive analysis of the oil and gas industry in the northeast, and British Columbians can be assured that we did not find any significant threats to human health,” says Bart Koppe, project leader with Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc.
Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc. – the company contracted to complete the assessment – will be hosting technical briefings in the northeast communities affected by the finding.
The first is being held at Fort St. John’s Quality Inn on Tuesday March 31, 2015 – running 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Below is a summary of the full report. To read the full report, click here