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Geothermal Gases—Community Experiences, Perceptions, and Exposures in Northern California


Lake County, California, is in a high geothermal-activity area. Over the past 30 years, the city of Clearlake has reported health effects and building evacuations related to geothermal venting. Previous investigations in Clearlake revealed hydrogen sulfide at levels known to cause health effects and methane at levels that can cause explosion risks. The authors conducted an investigation in multiple cities and towns in Lake County to understand better the risk of geothermal venting to the community. They conducted household surveys and outdoor air sampling of hydrogen sulfide and methane and found community members were aware of geothermal venting and some expressed concerns. The authors did not, however, find hydrogen sulfide above the California Environmental Protection Agency air quality standard of 30 parts per billion over one hour or methane above explosive thresholds. The authors recommend improving risk communication, continuing to monitor geothermal gas effects on the community, and using community reports and complaints to monitor and document geothermal venting incidents.

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Speaker / Author:
Cindy H. Chiu, MPH, PhD
Matthew J. Lozier, MPH, PhD
Tesfaye Bayleyegn, MD
Karen Tait, MD
Tracy Barreau, REHS; Lori Copan, MPH, RPh; Rachel Roisman, MPH, MD; Rebecca Jackson, MPH; Svetlana Smorodinsky, MPH; and Richard A. Kreutzer, MD
Fuyuen Yip, MPH, PhD
Amy Wolkin, MSPH, DrPH
Month Year:
December 2015
Page #:
Publication Month:
December 2015