The state agency in charge of testing for air pollution gave inaccurate test results to the city of Fort Worth about toxic emissions from gas wells, and later realized what it had done but failed to notify the city or the public for weeks about the problem, according to an audit made public this week.A top official at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality acknowledged that the tests were wrong, but said the agency has learned from the mistake.
"The way we do our sampling has got to change and it has," said John Sadlier, TCEQ's deputy director.
Sadlier presented the results to the Fort Worth City Council on Jan. 12, and told the council, "based on this study, the air is safe."
However, state officials later discovered that the tests had been done with a mobile lab that wasn't sensitive enough to measure for some of the compounds at the long-term levels.
When the samples were analyzed using more sensitive equipment, four of them were found to be above the long-term screening level for benzene.
The report by the TCEQ's internal auditor said, "The initial information . . . while technically accurate, could be considered to be misleading."
More to come on this developing story.
-Mike Lee and Aman Batheja