The Department of Environmental Protection Monday said it has determined through ambient air monitoring that levels of crystalline silica sand in the area of Tunkhannock, Wyoming County, do not show any potential for immediate health impacts.
The monitoring was conducted in response to residents’ concerns about a planned silica sand transfer station and its potential effects on air quality.
There were 113 samples taken for crystalline silica (PM4.0). All but two of these samples were less than detectable levels.
The two samples that did have silica concentrations above the detection limits were only trace amounts and insufficient to raise any immediate concern about potential adverse health impacts.
Trace amounts of silica in the sampling is not unexpected; small amounts can enter the air from a variety of natural causes such as soil and rain or from manmade sources such as road construction or quarry operations.
“The information we received from this monitoring provides the department and the public with a baseline of ambient air quality which would have been used to monitor and evaluate potential impacts the proposed facility, which has since been cancelled, could have had on air quality,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley.
The Department developed a sampling protocol to measure ambient crystalline silica concentrations as particulate matter (particles in the air expressed as PM) in 4 microns. The project was also designed to collect particulate matter in measurements of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) and 10 microns (PM10).
An analysis of the results of the sampling would determine the baseline levels of ambient crystalline silica concentrations in the monitoring area.
The monitoring, which took place from August to September 2015, analyzed data from three air sampling monitors placed near the proposed facility to get a representative picture of the local air quality. A total of 105 PM10 and 105 PM2.5 samples were taken during the monitoring period.
The results of the short-term monitoring in Tunkhannock were also comparable to other particulate matter samples in the region.
Because of the cancellation of the construction of the silica transloading facility, the DEP has terminated the baseline monitoring project in the Tunkhannock area.A copy of the monitoring report will be available on DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality webpage.