© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Some Populated Texas Areas Are At Risk Of Hydrogen Sulfide Pollution According To New Report

Paul Flahive | Texas Public Radio
Texas Public Radio

The oil and gas industry has become more active in the Permian Basin in recent years, and west Texas residents have complained of noxious smells and increased air pollution. In response, The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality launched two air monitoring surveys in December and February, and the results are now public.

The survey teams spent 10 total days in Midland, Odessa, Goldsmith, Seminole and Denver City over December and February. They focused on publicly accessible and populated areas near industrial sites. The surveys measured air pollutants, like sulfur dioxide, and the more poisonous gas, hydrogen sulfide. The legal limit of hydrogen sulfide in Texas is 80 parts per billion over a 30-minute average. 

That limit was exceeded in several different places on multiple days — in the worst instance, by 500% when the 30-minute average was 400 parts per billion.

Permian Basin Survey: Midland 

That level of the gas isn’t enough to cause immediate, serious health concerns, but it can do damage in the long term, says Afamia Elnakat, a doctor of environmental toxicology at University of Texas San Antonio. 

"Well, in terms of long-term exposure, we look at it the same way we look at either respiratory irritant or long term. And that is basically as much as people will be impacted, you become less tolerant to other irritants," said Elnakat.

She added the levels of hydrogen sulfide documented in the survey would likely affect the most sensitive groups only. 

Permian Basin Survey: Lubbock and Midland

The TCEQ Midland office is investigating several facilities, and the agency plans to install permanent monitoring stations in the area. TCEQ officials declined an interview.

Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony.

TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.

Dominic Anthony Walsh can be reached at Dominic@TPR.org and on Twitter at @_DominicAnthony