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Town will get air quality monitoring station

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At the urging of Flower Mound residents, members of the Town Council, and two state officials, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality committed last week to installing an Automated Gas Chromatograph air quality monitoring station in Flower Mound.

The equipment will continually monitor ambient levels of numerous volatile organic compounds, including benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene.

The AutoGC will provide virtually real-time data for immediate review and will accumulate an archive to offer a historical baseline of the air quality in Flower Mound.

Monitoring results will be available to the public on the TCEQ website, and will be made available to the Town of Flower Mound’s Environmental Resources staff members, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other interested parties, according to town officials.

“The installation of this monitoring equipment is an important step in ensuring the health, safety, and welfare of Flower Mound residents. It confirms TCEQ’s recognition of a need to study the air quality in our area, and our commitment to making sure that oversight occurs,” said Mayor Melissa Northern.

“I am extremely gratified that as a new Town Council we have been able to quickly build strong working relationships with our elected officials and state agencies in such a short period of time. Without this level of cooperation, installation of the monitoring station would not have occurred so quickly.”

Once approved, the equipment could be operational within 60 days.

Flower Mound officials requested that a station be installed in January and have been working with TCEQ officials since that time to secure the equipment and an ideal location.

The Town has also commissioned independent air studies and is in the process of purchasing portable testing equipment to be utilized by staff to conduct spot tests at specific locations throughout Flower Mound.

“We recognized the need to conduct air quality testing and began working on the installation of this equipment in late 2009. We are excited that the state recognized the same need and our residents will now be able to log on 24-hours-a-day and check the air quality in our community.” said Al Filidoro, Mayor Pro Tem.

“The TCEQ station’s monitoring combined with our own testing efforts will help all involved parties quickly recognize and address any issues that may pose health concerns for our residents.”

Flower Mound commissioned an independent air quality study in January to establish a baseline for comparison to future data. As air quality increasingly becomes a high-profile topic in North Texas, securing the TCEQ monitoring station became a combined initiative that involved not only Flower Mound officials, but also several state elected officials. State Representative Tan Parker contacted TCEQ this spring on behalf of the Town to request a monitoring station.

“I am very pleased that the TCEQ has made a commitment to place a permanent air monitoring system in the Flower Mound area,” said Rep. Parker. 

“Local lawmakers, civic leaders and engaged citizens all will be glad to see this effort come to fruition in the coming months.  The health, safety and well being of my constituency has been my top priority since taking office and with this permanent air monitor, if any compounds of concern do find their way into our atmosphere, we will be able to immediately act to resolve the situation.  This is a huge victory for both the peace of mind and well being of local residents.”

In addition to Representative Parker’s efforts, one of Flower Mound’s Senators also urged the state agency to consider a testing site within the Town. In a letter to the TCEQ, Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, cited Flower Mound as an ideal site for a station due to the Town being centrally located within the Barnett Shale and noted that it was vital for the state to collect air quality data to support public health research.

“As Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee and a Flower Mound resident whose grandchildren breathe our local air, I strongly supported the placement of an emissions monitoring station in southern Denton County.  This data will support our efforts to study the environmental and health impact of natural gas drilling in our community,” said Senator Nelson.

Flower Mound officials said that the Town Council and staff will continue to work with all elected officials, state agencies, and industry representatives to make certain that every possible measure is being taken to ensure that the air quality in the Town is monitored and potential health or safety risks are immediately mitigated.

Critics of urban gas exploration said that although the air monitor is a step in the right direction, the dangers associated with drilling are still a concern.

“Yes, this is an achievement for our town council and staff, and I am grateful for their efforts. But let’s be careful what we celebrate, lest we get lulled into the notion that we can co-exist safely and healthily with gas wells amongst us. The risks of explosion and water contamination are still a very clear and present danger,” said Flower Mound resident Ladd Biro.

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