There was a radio story this morning about workers at a health clinic in Burgettstown (west of Pittsburgh, PA) getting sick from fumes. They're temporarily moving the clinic.
Published: May 15, 2012
by Rob Stein
Kay Allen had just started work, and everything seemed quiet at the Cornerstone Care community health clinic in Burgettstown, Pa. But things didn't stay quiet for long. "All the girls, they were yelling at me in the back, 'You gotta come out here quick. You gotta come out here quick,'" said Allen, 59, a nurse from Weirton, W.Va. Allen rushed out front and knew right away what all the yelling was about. The whole place reeked — like someone had spilled a giant bottle of nail polisher remover. "So I told everybody to get outside and get fresh air. So we went outside. And Aggie said, 'Kay, I'm gonna be sick.' But before I get in, to get something for her to throw up in — she had to go over the railing," she said.
Nothing like this had ever happened in the 20 years that Allen has been at the clinic. After about 45 minutes, she thought the coast was clear and took everyone back inside. "It was fine. But the next thing you know, they're calling me again. There was another gust. Well, the one girl, Miranda, she was sitting at the registration place, and you could tell she'd had too much of it. And Miranda got overcome by that and she passed out," she said.
'It's The Unknown I Think That's The Scariest Thing'
This sort of thing has been happening for weeks. Mysterious gusts of fumes keep wafting through the clinic. In fact, just the day before being interviewed by NPR, Allen suddenly felt like she'd been engulfed by one of these big invisible bubbles. "And all of a sudden your tongue gets this metal taste on it. And it feels like it's enlarging, and it just feels like you're not getting enough air in, because your throat gets real 'burn-ey.' And the next I know I ... passed out," Allen said.
Half a dozen of Allen's co-workers stopped coming in. One old-timer quit. No one can figure out what's going on. For doctors and nurses used to taking care of sick people, it's unnerving to suddenly be the patients. "It's the unknown I think that's the scariest thing," she said.
Richard Rinehart, who runs the rural clinic, can't help but wonder whether the natural gas drilling going on all around the area may have something to do with what's been happening. "I lay at bed at night thinking all kinds of theories. Is something coming through the air from some process that they're using? I know they use a lot of chemicals and so forth. Certainly that could be a culprit. We're wondering, Is something coming through the ground?" Rinehart said, noting that he'd just noticed a new drill on a hill overlooking the back of the clinic.
Now, no one knows whether the gas drilling has anything to do with the problems at the clinic. It could easily turn out to be something completely unrelated. There's a smelting plant down the road and old coal mines everywhere. "Anything could be possible, and we just are trying to get to the root of it," he said.
Mysterious Symptoms, Lots Of Questions
People living near gas well drilling around the country are reporting similar problems, plus headaches, rashes, wheezing, aches and pains and other symptoms. Doctors like Julie DeRosa, who works at Cornerstone, aren't sure how to help people with these mysterious symptoms. "I don't want to ignore symptoms that may be clues to a serious condition. I also don't want to order a lot of unnecessary tests. I don't want to feed any kind of hysteria," DeRosa said.
To try to figure out what's going on, the clinic called the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which is investigating. It also started testing the air for chemicals, monitoring wind direction around the clinic and keeping diaries of everyone's symptoms. In addition, the clinic contacted Raina Rippel, project director for the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project.
The local nonprofit was set up recently to help people in this kind of situation. Her team tested tap water from inside a men's room and from a stream out back. Rippel knows people in the area have lot of questions.
"Is my water fit to drink? Is the air fit to breathe? Am I going to suffer long-term health impacts from this?" she said.
Charles Werntz at West Virginia University, an occupational medicine specialist, is used to dealing with chemical exposures. Lately, he's seeing more people who live near the drilling. But for now, he says he can't really do much more than offer basic advice: Drink bottled water, air out the house, leave your shoes outside. If it's still too bad, move — if possible.
Back at Cornerstone, Rinehart just wants to get back to taking care of patients. "We are in the business of trying to improve and maintain the public's health here. And now we are in the throes of it. And we're trying not to point fingers," Rinehart said. The next day, people got sick again and the clinic had to be evacuated once more. So they've moved the clinic to temporary offices until someone figures out what's going on.
[see http://m.npr.org/news/front/152268475?singlePage=true for complete article]
I would guess the smelter,they are very busy with all the gold and silver people are cashing in and lots of chemicals used in the smelting process.
My question would be, how long as the smeltering plant been in operation? If it was been there for awhile and no one was having these symptons, then I would say its the drilling.
Burn the witches at the stake... I'm sure it is the witches causing the problem. Once the witches have been burned the smell will dissipate. Seriously... "it must be natural gas drilling"... where do you come up with that logic???
Rather than looking at the Rig on the Hill, they should be looking in the basement and in the janitor's closet. Sounds like a rusty leaking old can of Shellac, Varnish, Solvent, Glue, or other such "toxic" chemical.
All this compounded by "Mass Hysteria" promoted by Anti-Fracers.
Acetone is the chemical most commonly associated with nail polish odor, I would look at industries that utilize this particular chemical.
Paul, This site is for honest information exchange amongst landowners, not unemployed narcissistic academic types who cant repress their urge to be publicly recognized.
A convincing article bought and paid for, complete with first hand notations, that's cute.
Go find a job.
I could not of said it better.
If someone gets a hangnail they seem to want to blame it on Natural Gas Drilling and/or Fracing.
A sorry reflection on an educational system that does not require a passing grade in a basic course in "Logic & Ethics" prior to obtaining a High School diploma.
Five years ago they would have called it 'sick building syndrome,' then they would sample the drains and ventilation system for organisms and contaminants. I wonder how well they have maintained these over 20 years? Health clinics use a lot of toxic chemicals themselves, I wonder how carefully they have disposed of them over the years? Down the drains perhaps?
There was a "new drill on a hill overlooking the back of the clinic".
Was it a new drill, like a sweet Bosch 18V hammer drill, or something more sensable, like maybe a Craftsman one from Sears? Or perhaps a drill kit where you get the little circular saw, flashlight combo with extra battery and charger? In a tidy case.
Was this an eye clinic? He must have good eyesight. A drill on a hill is hard to spot if the farmer did not take his first cut of hay.
Instead of calling the DEP he should have called a Frac-Truck Chasing Atty. and got some real answers for 30%.
Or joined a group, they handle all the problems after you sign.
According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette newspaper, the first mention of odors by the clinic occurred prior to the start of drilling the closest well, and the well-drilling uses no substances that would produce the acetone or nail-polish removal smell. (article dated May 5, 2012.)
RE: "the first mention of odors by the clinic occurred prior to the start of drilling the closest well"
This is an obvious case of what the Anti-Fracers refer to as “Predictive Pollution”.
Predictive Pollution is when Gaia (aka Mother Earth) unleashes a “burp’ of pollution as a warning that she does not want us to drill into her bum.
Don't fool with Mother Gaia!