Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Washington County Community Meeting Updates Residents On PA Health & Environment Studies, Discusses Health Impacts Of Shale Gas Development

An October 5 public meeting in Canonsburg, Washington County offered residents an opportunity to learn more about a set of research studies titled the
PA Health and Environment Studies now being conducted by the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health. 

The event was planned and presented by the Center for Coalfield Justice, the Environmental Health Project, FracTracker Alliance, the Mountain Watershed Association, and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania.  

The studies are exploring potential health impacts of the shale gas industry on residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania, including potential connections between this heavy industry and a spike in childhood cancers in the region. 

The PA Health and Environment studies are ongoing, and results were not shared at this meeting. 

Persons who formerly participated as members of the studies’ External Advisory Board and who provided feedback to the study architects discussed the studies at the Canonsburg meeting and helped to prepare the community to understand the scope and limitations of the results.  

“We held this meeting to bring as much transparency as possible to our communities,” said Heaven Sensky, former External Advisory Board co-chair and organizing director of the Center for Coalfield Justice. “When our government and academic institutions fail to be accountable to our communities, together as neighbors we can get answers and protect our health.” 

“We’re encouraging residents to visit the studies’ website and ask questions of the research team, so that everyone can best understand the results once they are published,” said Erica Jackson, former External Advisory Board member and manager of community outreach and support for FracTracker Alliance. “These studies would not exist if it weren’t for the work of impacted families organizing in their communities, and we want to make sure those voices aren’t lost now that the research is underway.” 

“Although this meeting is in Canonsburg, it is important to understand that the health impacts at the forefront of these studies are regionwide,” said Stacey Magda, community organizer for Mountain Watershed Association. “Having the opportunity to work with a coalition of organizations that support environmental and human equity issues is such a powerful resource to offer our communities. We are hopeful folks will gain the opportunity to understand these studies, express concerns and experiences, and work together to find a path forward to ensure the health and vitality of our entire region.” 

Additionally, the Environmental Health Project and Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania presented information families can use to identify impacts and protect their health. 

“There is no doubt that residents living in proximity to shale gas development face a host of potential health issues,” said Makenzie White, public health manager at the Environmental Health Project. “Studies show that shale gas operations raise the risk of respiratory illnesses like asthma, heart disease and heart attacks, birth defects and pre-term deliveries, mental health problems, and cancer. It’s essential that we give impacted residents the tools they need to make informed decisions about their family’s health.” 

“Nobody should be surprised when children living near fracked gas wells, pipelines, compressor stations, gas processing facilities, and fracking waste landfills start getting sick,” said former External Advisory Board member and current president of Physicians for Social Responsibility Pennsylvania, Dr. Ned Ketyer. “Dozens of studies already show serious harm to people living nearby, and children appear to bear the highest burden.” 

Representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health had originally committed to being on hand to explain the study process and to take questions from community members. However, the agency and the school decided to pull out of the meeting. 

A separate statement on this matter from meeting organizers can be viewed here

Online Comment Form

The Department of Health has set up an online form where residents can ask questions and provide feedback. 

Click Here to watch a video of the public meeting.

More Background

In 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s administration allocated $3 million to the studies, taking action after months of impassioned pleas by the families of childhood cancer patients who live in the most heavily drilled region of the state. 

The studies have been underway for two years.  

“The constant drumbeat from industry to deny, deny can no longer be tolerated,” said Lois Bower-Bjornson, mother of four, who is also southwestern field organizer with Clean Air Council and the host of Frackland tours. “The game that the industry is playing comes at a cost for the children and families that live in the frack fields of Southwestern Pennsylvania. A recent study from Yale University found that children living near oil and gas have three times the risk of developing leukemia. I don’t see anyone talking about how bad industry is for our children and communities. We rely on public institutions to help protect us, and now those institutions can be added to the list of the complacent.” 

The studies cover the entirety of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Region, including Allegheny County, Armstrong County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County. 


-- Post-Gazette: Washington County Residents Seek Answers On Health Impacts Of Fracking, Shale Gas

-- StateImpactPA - Reid Frazier: Public Briefed On Fracking Health Studies, Despite No-Show From Pitt, State Health Dept.

-- Observer-Reporter: Looking For Answers - Residents Await Results Of Shale Gas Drilling Health Studies

Related Article On Oct. 5 Meeting:

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Hosts Oct. 5 In-Person, Virtual Public Meeting On PA Health Studies Of Natural Gas Development In Southwest PA

University Of Pittsburgh - 3 Health Studies:

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Hosts Oct. 5 Public Meeting On PA Health Studies Of Natural Gas Development In Southwest PA  [PaEN]

-- University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health Recruiting Families In Southwest PA For Study Of Childhood Cancer, One Of 3 Studies Of Potential Health Impacts Linked To Shale Natural Gas Development [PaEN]

Related Articles:

-- Dept. Of Health Awards $2.5 Million Contract To University of Pittsburgh To Research Health Effects Of Hydraulic Fracturing In PA [PaEN]

-- Health Advocacy Groups Meet With State Dept. Of Health, DEP To Discuss Residents Impacted By Shale Gas Emissions [PaEN]

-- Dept. Of Health Visits Communities And Families Impacted By Shale Gas Development, Hears Firsthand Accounts Of Health Harms [PaEN]

-- Environmental Health Project: PA’s Natural Gas Boom - What Went Wrong? Why Does It Matter?  What Can We Do Better To Protect Public Health?  [PaEN]

-- Senate Hearing: Body Of Evidence Is 'Large, Growing,’ ‘Consistent’ And 'Compelling' That Shale Gas Development Is Having A Negative Impact On Public Health; PA Must Act  [PaEN]

PA Environment Digest:

-- Recent Articles Posted On Oil & Gas Drilling Impacts

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP Issued NOVs To Conventional Oil & Gas Companies For Abandoning 55 Wells Without Plugging Them During September Alone, A Dramatic Increase In New Well Abandonments  [PaEN]

-- DEP Collects $147,250 Penalty From Rice Drilling B LLC For Erosion & Sedimentation Violations In Greene County; DEP Found Rice Had Hundreds Of Other Violations, Including Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them  [PaEN]

-- DEP: PA Fracking Operations Sent Nearly 236,000 Cubic Feet Of Radioactive TENORM Waste To Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facilities For Disposal In 2021 - 811,070 since 2016  [PaEN]

-- Fall Visitors To Conventional Oil & Gas Drilling Areas Urged To Report Illegal Road Dumping Of Drilling Wastewater  [PaEN]

-- Environmental Groups Raise Serious Compliance Issues With Olympus Energy-- Over 600 Violations On 13 DEP Permits-- In Comments On Proposed Shale Gas Drilling Pad In Allegheny County  [PaEN]

[Posted: October 5, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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