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.


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Jack , I did not know that she dumped him . Tipper if you are watching please excuse 

my comment .

"Mary Elizabeth "Tipper" Gore (née Aitcheson; born August 19, 1948) is an author, photographer, former second lady of the United States, and the estranged wife of Al Gore."

Dumped Al in 2010; only mystery is what took her so long.

Al sure rubbed me the wrong way; from police reports, he seems to have asked Massage Therapists to rub him the wrong way.

Al & Slick Willie made a great pair.




LOL , Fang !

Gore to me was like ordering your favorite desert and after tasting it you find that you just took a mouthful of Bull Crap .

To many he looked good until the taste and smell test was performed .

Myself all of his lie's , false data , bad morals ,and hypocrisy  reminded me of a cup of diarrhea with a carrot sticking out of it .

Sorry for the graphics , I just really don't like him .

Fang ,

 they sure are first in line to enjoy all of that dirty coal fired electric that powers there toys and first to wag there finger at everyone else .

They need to go to a concert at the white house and inhale if you know what I mean .

Just to be fair and clear there are toxic chemicals used in the fracking process and need to be handled properly .The real problem if I may Jack ' in my humble opinion ' is the handling of the spent frac- water after flow back . This is all of our responsibility to watch were the flow back water goes after it leaves the well site . 

If the officials that are payed by us do there job and impose stiff penalties this would be all but be eliminated , sadly this isn't always the case .

This kinda behavior I would never condone .

Two trips down to the Pgh. airport last week and I did not see any anywhere. That's change we can believe in. Just keep your fingers crossed for Ohio, that they do the right thing.


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