It isn’t often that you personally know the personnel responsible for a project prior to its launch, but those of us at FracTracker had that benefit with regard to the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, or SWPA-EHP for short. (Oh how we love our complex acronyms.) Raina Rippel, the project’s director, spoke at the second annual Health Effects of Shale Gas Extraction conference hosted by the Graduate School of Public Health about this very topic. Raina and her team are fantastic resources, enabling us to better understand localized concerns and impacts and providing an outlet through which we can share the information we gather during our data analyses.
SWPA-EHP is being funded by The Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Claneil Foundation because people were concerned about shale gas drilling affecting their health and the lack of data available to address those concerns. Interestingly, that is also why CHEC initially became involved with shale gas drilling several years ago – of which FracTracker is a primary result. Recently, SWPA-EHP announced that they are the opening the first-recorded shale health office where area residents can schedule medical evaluations, get help understanding their health problems and learn how to limit their exposure to hazardous substances associated with the industry. In response to the critical, unmet need for access to accurate, timely and trusted public health information, as well as the need for appropriate health care in the communities of southwestern Pennsylvania, the Project has committed itself to the following:
- Purpose: The Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWPA-EHP) is a nonprofit environmental health organization created to assist and support Washington County residents who believe their health has been, or could be, impacted by natural gas drilling activities.
- Resources: The office also serves as a resource center for information on the potential routes of exposure to hazardous substances, as well as strategies for limiting the risk of health effects. Our staff will be available by appointment in the office and by phone to address concerns residents have about their environmental conditions. We will answer questions, provide guidance and steer people toward other resources when possible.
- Features: SWPA-EHP has an on-site nurse practitioner who is available by appointment for home or office visits, exams and consultations with people who think their health may be compromised by nearby gas drilling activities. She will also provide referrals, help clients navigate the health care system and consult with environmental health specialists about residents’ medical conditions.
- Project Goals:
- Establish a community environmental health center in SWPA to identify, document and respond to residents’ health concerns related to natural gas extraction;
- Conduct a community health needs assessments of Washington County communities to evaluate public health risks and resources and determine the actions necessary to address immediate public health problems;
- Provide the services of a nurse practitioner who can offer support, assist residents in understanding their health problems, and help them navigate the health care system as needed;
- Establish clinical resource networks to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of individual patients;
- Establish technical resource networks to obtain, analyze, develop and disseminate timely and accurate information to community members with respect to their health and environmental risks; and
- Initiate a planning process for comprehensive actions.
The SWPA-EHP office is located at 4198 Washington Road, Suite 5, in McMurray. The office is open Tuesday-Friday. Nurse Practitioner services are available by appointment only.
Find SWPA-EHP’s new office or add additional community resources to this editable dataset on Data.FracTracker.org by clicking on the map below: