Map of the proposed MVP Southgate expansion

In their proposed plans for the Southgate extension, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), LLC has announced two compressor stations to be built in Pittsylvania County (near Chatham) and in Rockingham County (near the state line between Eden and Danville). The purpose of these compressor stations according to MVP, LLC is to boost the pressure within the pipeline to so that natural gas can be carried from the starting point in Pittsylvania to the East Tennessee Pipeline and along to other purchasers like PSNC. Mountain Valley has reported they designed these compressor stations to raise gas pressure to 1,450 psi which is seemingly large for the length of the proposed route and is at the highest end of pressure for fracked-gas pipelines.

Lambert Compressor Station (Pittsylvania County, Va.)

Mountain Valley plans to construct the Lambert Compressor Station as a direct connection to the Mountain Valley Pipeline and will pull gas from the system to send along to the proposed Russell Compressor Station. Plans for the station include three gas-driven turbines that will provide 47,700 horsepower of compression. The station is also expected to include a compressor building, electrical control building, office and an air compressor building. Mountain Valley has reported they will construct this station, “…on a parcel of land owned by Mountain Valley” but the land required for construction and operation has been reported as “TBD”.

Russell Compressor Station (Rockingham County, N.C.)

Mountain Valley plans to construct the Russell Compressor Station that will provide 11,150 horsepower of compression for the Southgate pipeline and will contain one gas-drive turbine. Mountain Valley has written that the station is expected to include the same buildings that the Lambert Compressor has planned. Currently, there is no secured land for the station where Mountain Valley can build upon and the land required for construction and operation has been reported by the corporation as “TBD”.

Fracking infrastructure poses serious exposure risks to those living nearby.

New evidence demonstrates that pipelines, compressor stations, underground storage, LNG facilities, and other infrastructure components are responsible for substantial public health and climate change impacts. The massive build-out of this infrastructure is rarely acknowledged, but pipeline disasters, major methane leaks, and reports of local toxic emissions and related health concerns are increasingly common.

 

Blowdowns

During normal operation of the compressor station, there are times when the compressor may have to startup or shutdown. Pressurized natural gas remains in the compressor and adjoining pipeline during this stage. In some instances it may be necessary to release or blowdown this gas; often this may be accomplished by venting the gas to an adjacent compressor. In other occasions, it may be needed to vent this gas to the flare. During this time, the compressor station is typically not responsible for controlling the emissions released into the air.

Explosions

There is a proven record of fire and explosions at Compressor Stations across the country. An explosion at the Russell or Lambert compressor stations would be 615 feet in radius. This video is from the Falcon Natural Gas Compressor Station in Pinedale, Wyoming. On December 6th, 2011 it caught fire and exploded during a “normal venting operation.” An incident like this would require massive evacuations.

Health effects of living near compressor stations (Source)

Most common COMPLAINTS of residents living near compressor stations: 

  • Skin rash or irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as pain, nausea, vomiting
  • Respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing or cough
  • Upper respiratory problems such as congestion, sore throat and nosebleeds
  • Neurological problems such as headaches, movement disorders, dizziness
  • Psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, irritability

Possible long-term consequences:

  • Cardiovascular such as heart attack and high blood pressure
  • Respiratory such as exacerbation of asthma, COPD
  • Neurological such as stroke and cognitive deficits in children
  • Birth defects
  • Cancer
  • Premature mortality
Health Effects from exposures to VOCs (Source)

VOCs, present at compressor station construction and operation, are a varied group of compounds which can range from having no known health effects to being highly toxic.

Short-term exposure can cause:

  • Eye and respiratory tract irritation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Visual disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Allergic skin reaction
  • Nausea
  • Memory impairment

Long-term effects include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Damage to the liver, kidney, and central nervous system.
  • Some VOCs, such as benzene, formaldehyde, and styrene, are known or suspected carcinogens
  • Formaldehyde is considered a Hazardous Air Pollutant by the EPA and is one of the emissions chemicals that natural gas development industries must report. Air exposures to formaldehyde target the lungs and mucous membranes and in the short-term can cause asthma-like symptoms, coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
    • The EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen and the World Health Organization classifies it as carcinogenic to humans.
    • It has also been associated with childhood asthma and linked with adverse pregnancy outcomes as well as reproductive and developmental toxicity issues.
Health effects of excessive noise

According to a World Health Organization assessment of research, excessive noise can also increase risk of cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, and high levels of annoyance.

  • Researchers have found associations between elevated sound levels – including community sounds levels – and hearing loss, reduced performance and aggressive behavior.
  • Additionally some attention is being paid to the health effects of vibration exposure which is connected with but distinct from noise itself.
Specific to compressor stations

A peer-reviewed article, Investigating Links Between Shale Gas Development And Health Impacts Through A Community Survey Project In Pennsylvania (2014) is one of the few publications that explicitly addresses health impacts from compressors.

The report states: “In the Pennsylvania study, distance to industrial sites correlated with the prevalence of health symptoms. For example, when a gas well, compressor station, and/or impoundment pit were 1500-4000 feet away, 27 percent of participants reported throat irritation; this increased to 63 percent at 501-1500 feet and to 74 percent at less than 500 feet. At the farther distance, 37 percent reported sinus problems; this increased to 53 percent at the middle distance and 70 percent at the shortest distance. Severe headaches were reported by 30 percent of respondents at the farther distance, but by about 60 percent at the middle and short distances.”

Other links

http://www.templenh.org/sites/templenh/files/file/file/compressor_station_hazards_and_health_issues_-1.pdf

http://www.environmentalhealthproject.org/files/A%20Brief%20Review%20of%20Compressor%20Stations%2011.2015.pdf