Air Toxics in Montezuma Creek, Utah 

︎︎︎Princeton, NJ
︎︎︎Sept 2019 - Dec  2019

Fugitive emissions from the oil and gas industry are becoming increasingly
concerning-- leaked methane from natural gas operations totals an estimated 13 million metric
tons per year. 

In this study, methane concentrations were measured at sites surrounding Montezuma Creek, a town located in San Juan County, Utah. Montezuma Creek is located within the land of the Navajo Nation. According to U.S. census data, 86.2% of Montezuma Creek residents identify as American Indian. The town’s poverty rate is 52.7%. 

Methane concentrations were collected in order to determine the potential volatile organic compound (VOC) and toxic hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) concentrations, which contribute to ozone formation and poor air quality for Montezuma Creek inhabitants.


In this study, we measured concentrations of methane in the oil field community of Montezuma Creek and Aneth in order to estimate VOC concentrations and identify potential super emitters in the area.


This study concluded that there are areas of high concern in the Aneth-Montezuma Creek region in terms of air quality, and further studies are required to determine the extent of pollutant exposure in the region. It is important to note that the town of Montezuma Creek reported significantly higher methane concentrations than Aneth. In Montezuma Creek, concentrations as high as 34,030.0 ppb were detected during the duratio of a four day concentration sampling. These high concentration levels most likely mean Montezuma Creek residents are exposed to dangerous levels of cancer-causing VOCs. Additionally, there are super emitters in the area that are likely releasing the majority of VOC emissions and should be addressed as soon as possible to improve the air quality in Montezuma Creek.