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Poison Gas in Manistee County

What is H2S? How dangerous is it?

September 10, 1996 | By Arlin Wasserman
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Last August, a release of 5,500 cubic feet of natural gas containing 900 ppm of poisonous H2S occurred in the Parkdale district of Manistee Township. The release, which occurred while workers were attempting to plug a well, caused several citizens in the neighborhood to lose consciousness and collapse. Eleven victims were treated at West Shore Community Hospital - at least one of them sustained serious lung damage. Others are still being treated for symptoms of asthma, skin irritations and neuropsychological problems.

Neither the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which regulates oil and gas development, nor the well's owner have publicly acknowledged the serious nature of the release.

Both the State and the company maintain that not enough H2S escaped to cause injury. To date, neither the DEQ nor the well owner have conducted a thorough investigation of the incident.

The Parkdale accident was the latest warning that new and proposed wells in Manistee County present an unacceptable risk to public health and safety. In the past decade, other injuries and evacuations have occurred in the Manistee area as a result of H2S releases. One accident in 1994 caused four children to be hospitalized.

The safety of the people in Filer Township, the City of Manistee, Manistee Township and other areas of Manistee County is at risk from natural gas wells that contain dangerous concentrations of H2S. The community's continued concerns about H2S are valid and urgent.

Independent Safety Studies Confirm Hazard

In 1996, two independent safety studies regarding the hazards of H2S to the public were conducted in Manistee County. In the first study, Dames and Moore, assessed the risks of leaks from pipelines and gas wells for the City of Manistee. The second study, which addressed similar issues, was undertaken by Environmental Solutions Inc. for Filer Township.

The studies clearly show that releases of H2S from gas wells and pipelines in the City and in Filer Township would pose serious threats to public health and safety.

For example, 230 homes in Filer Township would be threatened by a leak from the proposed Cherry Street pipeline. Another 160 homes in Filer Township could be in danger from a leak from the Della Pia Well near Red Apple Road. The Dames and Moore study indicated that significant risks existed for all Manistee City homes and businesses within 3,600 feet of the well on Cherry Street and another at the golf course.

The Most Vulnerable

People with the following existing health conditions are especially susceptible to H2S:

heart disease
coronary artery disease
angina pectoris
high blood pressure
eye infections

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