The Citizen Surveillance Project and Marcellus Shale Development

By Charles Christen, DrPH, MEd – Director of Operations, Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

In August and November of last year, we reported on the start up of the Citizen Surveillance Project targeting surveillance and water monitoring of the industry developing the Marcellus Shale deposit for natural gas. I would like to update you on the progress of this project.

Currently this is a two phase project beginning with attendance at a Visual Assessment training followed by an optional Water Monitoring training. Since the start up of this project three visual assessment trainings have been held: Connellsville, Washington and Greensburg, PA as well as a water monitoring training.

To aid in the visual assessment training, a manual has been developed by the partners forming the core of the Citizen Surveillance project. The manual uses information from the Society of Petroleum Engineers in order to provide a detailed description of the well pad selection, drilling procedures, fracturing and well completion. There are also detailed descriptions of water and air related issues and how to perform surveillance with the senses of sight, smell, sound and touch. A section of the manual is also devoted to safety issues when performing surveillance on industry operations. The manual concludes with instructions for a full visual assessment of an industry site and surrounding area.

The project started as a pilot in the fall of 2009 in Fayette County, with the intention of expanding the project into all areas where Marcellus Shale gas industry develops. This project was developed out of the realization that as the number of wells grew the necessary enforcement officials from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) to provide oversight on the industry would be lacking. The realization of the need for additional “boots” on ground developed into a project to provide education and empowerment to individuals living in and around these gas industry sites. The content for training citizens in surveillance of the industry is provided by the manual for the Visual Assessment training. View the Visual Assessment Manual. You may print and use this manual freely.

If you would like to participate in visual assessment training or water monitoring training you can contact Veronica Coptis, project coordinator for the Citizen Stewardship project. Her contact information is (724) 455-4200 extension 4# and

Project Partners