Environmental Group Will Study Fracking Impact in Pennsylvania

A non-profit group has opened an office in southwestern Pennsylvania as part of its effort to help residents there deal with the effects of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drilling.

According to an AP report this week, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project has opened an office in Washington County, Pa., about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. The goal of the office is to provide information and services to the residents of that area and the rest of the state of Pennsylvania regarding active or proposed fracking activity. The office has been staffed by several paid employees including a nurse who will make house calls in the immediate area. The nurse and staff at the project office will also help residents deal with the health care system as it corresponds to fracking-related injuries or health complications and will also communicate with “environmental health specialists” when necessary.

In the near future, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project said it plans to coordinate its efforts with several physicians in the area to refer patients suffering from fracking-related maladies.

Southwestern Pennsylvania is one of the hotbeds of fracking activity in the U.S., with numerous wells already open and many more proposed as natural gas companies converge upon the area in search of fuel reserves in the massive Marcellus shale formation about two miles below the surface in Washington County and much of rural Pennsylvania.

The efforts of this non-profit group are being welcomed by the state’s Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry-based group aimed at providing the public with information related to the controversial drilling process. Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project is being funded by Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation, and the Claneil Foundation, according to AP’s report.

Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project has a goal of identifying health problems caused by fracking and differentiating those caused by other environmental factors. The area its services immediately has been subjected to generations of energy exploration, including bituminous coal mining and oil drilling. People living in the area for years have complained that environmental conditions have led to lifetimes of health problems and now fracking presents a new danger to this and future generations.

Fracking drilling has been blamed on myriad health problems, especially among people living closest to active wells, where air and water pollution are the chief concerns. In some areas of Pennsylvania, fracking drilling has been identified as the primary reason for excess methane gas build-up in private water wells. The drilling has also been blamed on localized groundwater contamination and “blowout” accidents at wells has resulted in spilled toxic drilling fluids, poisoning local streams and creeks that eventually lead into public water supplies.

Plans call for expanding fracking drilling in southwestern Pennsylvania, in other parts of the state and region and as activity progresses, it is likely more people will be subject to the dangers posed by drilling.

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