CORRECTION: This story originally misreported the number of approved drilling sites in Weld County. There are 5,300.
The Boulder County commissioners approved funding Tuesday for an 18-month air quality study focusing on oil and gas emissions produced by hydraulic fracturing.
The Boulder County Air Quality Monitoring Study -- which will cost $81,291 -- will measure the presence of volatile organic compounds found in the county's air, as well as assess cost-effective monitoring techniques, officials said.
Boulder County Public Health and the University of Colorado will conduct the study. Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones unanimously approved the project, which will come from the county's 2013 general fund budget.
Commissioners expressed their enthusiasm for the study, citing concern about the high volume of oil and gas extraction in neighboring Weld County. Weld has 5,300 approved drilling sites, where fracking is largely used to extract fossil fuels, according to a presentation by Pam Milmoe, air quality coordinator for Public Health.
"Air doesn't respect county borders," Milmoe said.
Four locations in proximity to oil and gas extraction sites will be included in the study, as well as a "background" site in a highly populated area, tentatively proposed somewhere in south Boulder.
Researchers will employ three methods for air quality measurements. Traditional canister sampling -- a standard practice for such studies -- will be compared with newer, more cost-efficient technologies to see how they perform.
New methods include absorbent tube samples, as well as gas development pods, or OG-Pods, a new measurement system developed by CU. Unlike other sample methods, OG-Pods take continuous measurements that can be read in real-time.
The study will take 18 months, but Milmoe said a preliminary report can be expected in 12 to 14 months.