Environmentalists raise fracking concerns

WARREN – Funded largely by grants, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project focuses its attention on health evaluations, referrals and tracking of health complaints believed to be related to hydraulic fracturing in that state.

Acknowledging there is little evidence of a connection, the group’s associate director, Jill Kriesky, said still its members are steadfast in their goal to help residents survive the natural gas rush that has taken over much of the commonwealth.

“Do we wish we weren’t telling people how to get out of the way?” Kriesky said in an address to dozens of environmentalists gathered inside a downtown Warren conference room. “Yes. But ultimately what we want is for this industry not to be doing what they are doing.”

Kriesky was one of more than a dozen speakers and panelists in the day-long conference titled “Unconventional shale drilling. What we know, what we don’t know, what we need to know to move forward.”

Topics included health, environment, economics and water safety. In her segment, Kriesky spoke about the equipment her agency helps provide to monitor things like air and water quality and the attention a nurse practitioner focuses on symptoms reported by residents like rashes, abdominal pain, stress and anxiety.

Other scientists, doctors, attorneys, researchers and environmental advocates spoke on topics such as the costs and benefits of the shale gas development for local communities; government regulations on the industry; oilfield waste disposal issues involving injection wells; fracking emergencies; and the economics of the industry.

The event wraps up today.