Compressor stations spark health concern

Officials from 40 communities in New Hampshire and Massachusetts said recently that compressor stations that would be part energy giant Kinder Morgan’s proposed natural gas pipeline are harmful to humans. Brookline Town Administrator Tad Putney said studies show the compressor stations emit chemicals and materials that can double the risk of newborn autism and increase the chance of asthma and respiratory problems. "As town leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up for our citizens on this issue," Putney said in a joint statement issued by three community coalitions.

The controversial Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct proposal is a roughly 419-mile pipeline intended to carry natural gas from western Pennsylvania and New York into New England. Proponents say it is intended to supply New England with direct access to low-cost energy. About 70 miles of the proposed pipeline would cut through 17 New Hampshire towns. Municipal officials spoke out against Kinder Morgan’s plan to build compressor stations in Windsor, Northfield and Dracut, Mass., and New Ipswich.

The compressor stations would concentrate and move gas along the pipeline. The officials said compressor stations emissions are linked to nosebleeds, respiratory problems and cancer. "The levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions are bad enough, leading to increased respiratory and cardiovascular problems," Temple Selectman Gail Cromwell said. "The projected emissions of formaldehyde, however, are downright scary as a known cause of cancer."

Richard Wheatley, of Kinder Morgan, said the Tennessee Gas Pipeline is required to have an air quality permit from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in order to construct and operate the proposed compressor station. "During the permitting process, TGP must show the proposed compressor station will comply with all applicable federal, state and local air pollution regulations and standards," Wheatley said. "TGP must also demonstrate to the agency’s satisfaction that the proposed compressor station won’t cause an adverse impact to human health or the environment."

Community officials said Kinder Morgan’s recent filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission shows up to 100 tons of toxins, volatile organic compounds and carcinogens would be emitted by the facilities annually. W h e a t l e y said the natural gas has been treated and processed before entering the interstate pipeline network to remove impurities. "Benzene, other hazardous air pollutants and hydrogen sulfide gas that may be present in production wells have been removed prior to custody transfer into the TGP pipeline system," Wheatley said.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline LLC, a subsidiary of Texasbased Kinder Morgan, has proposed a roughly 3-footd i a m e t e r pipeline buried across southern New Hampshire and underneath the Souhegan and Merrimack rivers before connecting with existing networks in Londonderry.

Jed Proujansky, a selectman from Northfield, Mass., questioned the safety of running the pipeline through watersheds and aquifers. Dr. Curt Nordgaard, a Boston pediatrician, recently spoke in Temple on the potential health effects of compressor stations. Nordgaard spoke of increased frequency of nosebleeds, headaches and higher rates of new cases of chronic diseases such as asthma, the community coalitions said in their prepared statement. He also expressed concern about the impact of formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide emission levels and other health risks.

The coalitions are the New Hampshire Municipal Pipeline Coalition, the Municipal Coalition Against the Pipeline and the Northeast Municipal Gas Pipeline Coalition.

Kathryn Marchocki can be reached at 594-6589 or kmarchocki@nashua