Photo Gallery | Informational meeting on Kinder Morgan pipeline compressor
WINDSOR — A Boston pediatrician has urged local opponents of Kinder Morgan's natural gas pipeline to keep up the fight against the project — especially the factory-sized compressor station planned for Peru Road.
Dr. Curtis Nordgaard told a standing-room-only crowd in Windsor Town Hall Sunday afternoon, the federally allowed emissions from the compressor facility are calculated on a regional basis.
"They may be within [Environmental Protection Agency] limits, but those limits don't take into account local health," he said. "Personally, if I had this going through my neighborhood I would be extremely distressed."
Nordgaard, a senior resident at Boston Children's Hospital concerned about environmental health, and Dr. Sheila Bushkin-Bedient from the Institute of Health at the University at Albany spent nearly two hours discussing the type of air pollutants compressor stations have known to emit and how they increase the risk of chronic illness such as asthma, heart disease and possibly cancer.
"If we were a team, we would be on the wrong side of the net and the chemicals on the other side strengthen together [against us],"
The proposed Peru Road compressor station would sit on 16 acres of private land, nearly two miles from Route 9 and the center of town. The facility would house two compressor units with engines totaling 41,000 horsepower — each weighing in excess of 150,000 pounds. The nine stations along the Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline route would propel the flow of natural gas to its terminal in Dracut. The two physicians pointed out Kinder Morgan and other natural gas pipeline builders strive to emit only methane gas from compressor stations, but environmental data has shown numerous other chemicals, many volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are also given off.
"They are formed from the incomplete combustion of natural gas to fuel the compressor station," Bushkin-Bedient said.
In particular, Nordgaard cited benzene and formaldehyde, even in small amounts, are dangerous if continually exposed to the carcinogens.
"Putting a small amount of benzene in an Olympic-size swimming pool increases the risk of cancer," he said.
The doctors admit more study is needed of the direct health affects of compressor stations and other parts of the natural gas pipeline infrastructure beyond the source of the fossil fuel. Earlier this year, the American Medical Association called for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment of pipelines, according to Bushkin-Bedient.
She added some recent studies have shown compressor stations are emitting more toxic substances than where hydraulic fracking is used to release natural gas trapped in deep rock formations. Fracking opponents claim the process cause ground and surface water contamination among other negative environmental impacts.
"Children and elderly people are most vulnerable to emissions coming out of compressor stations," Bushkin-Bedient said.
Later this month, the company plans to file a 6,000-page document seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the new pipeline — expected to run from central New York to Dracut by way of the Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley and a swath of southern New Hampshire.
The permit application will seek the installation of nine compressor stations, one every 40 to 50 miles, with Windsor hosting the only one in Berkshire County of the three planned for Massachusetts.
Being the only pipeline structure above ground, residents are worried it will be noisy and ruin the aesthetics of the area.
In addition to the potential visual and environmental impact of the station, many Windsor residents and officials are concerned about the heavy truck traffic on Peru Road during construction — the majority of the payload being compacted gravel.
Kinder Morgan officials last month vowed to repair any road damage incurred during construction.
The pipeline route is adjacent to a high-tension electrical utility corridor, but requires its own 100-foot swath of land during construction, reduced to a 50-foot pathway thereafter. At least five homes are within a half-mile buffer zone surrounding the compressor station, with others just outside the perimeter.
About 20 residents have slivers of property that would be needed to create the pipeline corridor outside the electric utility line right-of-way.
The $3.3 billion pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, north of Lowell, also would pass through six other Berkshire towns — Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Dalton, Hinsdale and Peru.