Natural Gas Industry News: Free Air Quality Monitoring Software Now Being Offered for MGP Site Cleanup

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An estimated 3,000 former Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) sites in the United States await cleanup, and protecting local communities from adverse exposure to airborne contaminants is of paramount concern. Minnich and Scotto, Inc. is now offering owners free software to demonstrate compliance with health-based thresholds during MGP site cleanup.

The "Eye That Never Sleeps" During Cleanup of the Atmos Energy Bristol, Tennessee MGP Site

Application of this technique fosters positive relations between the community and the natural gas industry.

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Minnich and Scotto, Inc. (MSI) announces that specialized air quality monitoring software for ensuring community protection during the cleanup of former manufactured gas plants (MGPs) is now available to the natural gas industry free of charge when they retain MSI as an independent provider of air quality monitoring services. Formerly available only under licensing arrangement, PICMET©, a real-time, automated software package, uses open-path Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and on-site meteorological data to demonstrate community protection from adverse airborne exposure. PICMET reporting can be customized for up to 15 volatile compounds of concern, including benzene and naphthalene. With maximum contaminant concentrations calculated every 10 minutes, these air quality “snapshots” are automatically compared to 24-hour-averaged health-based thresholds, and the site owner is immediately notified if any action is required. This “screening tool” ensures the public is never at risk, thereby reducing the site owner’s legal liability to an absolute minimum.

Salvatore “Buddy” Scotto, President of Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association in Brooklyn, New York, couldn’t be more pleased. “This air quality monitoring technology is exactly what our community needs to ensure we are fully protected from potentially harmful air emissions during the cleanup of the Public Place MGP site starting next spring,” said Scotto. The Public Place site, also known as the Citizens site, is an 11.5-acre former MGP operated by Brooklyn Union Gas (a National Grid predecessor company) until the early 1960s. “National Grid has informed us they will perform a full evaluation of this technology prior to initiation of site cleanup,” Scotto continued, “and anything to make it more attractive for National Grid to employ this software is a good thing.”

Tim Minnich, president of MSI and co-creator of PICMET, is hopeful that this financial incentive will encourage the natural gas industry to use the open-path technology. “There are about 3,000 MGP sites remaining to be cleaned up in the U.S. alone,” Minnich said. Most of these plants were built in cities and towns in the 19th century to provide gas for heating, cooking, and lighting before the existence of natural gas pipelines. Coal tar is the principal hazard and the source of many volatile air contaminants, some of which are known carcinogens. Minnich estimates that his firm has invested $100,000 to develop PICMET.

PICMET was field-tested at two MGP sites during a 2½-year R&D program by the Gas Technology Institute following performance of a successful beta-test by Atmos Energy Corporation during a site cleanup in Bristol, Tennessee. “This breakthrough technology creates an entirely new paradigm in perimeter air quality monitoring,” says Dr. Stephen Takach, GTI’s project manager for the program. “Application of this technique fosters positive relations between the community and the natural gas industry. MGP sites can be cleaned up within a ‘partnership triangle’ comprised of the site owner, the regulators who are responsible for oversight, and the local community.”

Stuart Schulz, Atmos Energy’s MGP site program manager, agreed. “Thanks to this technology, acceptable air emissions levels were maintained at all times during the Bristol cleanup, and Atmos Energy was able to ensure safe air quality for its employees and the public,” he stated. “It was also less expensive than the sophisticated point monitoring systems used at other Atmos Energy sites in the past.” Atmos Energy was awarded the 2005 Environmental Excellence New Technology Award by the Southern Gas Association for its use of the open-path FTIR technology and the PICMET software.

Joann Held, retired Manger, Bureau of Air Quality Evaluation within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and current member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Advisory Council (EJAC), enthusiastically supports MSI’s approach to MGP site air quality monitoring. “Many MGP sites are located in distressed urban areas with residents living in very close proximity, and MSI’s software helps ensure that the incremental risk to the community is minimized during their cleanup,” asserts Held.

Minnich and Scotto, Inc.,, established in 1996, is an environmental consulting firm based in Freehold, New Jersey. Each of its principals has more than 30 years experience in providing air quality services to industry and government.

Tim Minnich, President
Minnich and Scotto, Inc.
(732) 409-9900


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