Living with the Effects of Shale Gas Extraction

Posted May 22, 2017, by Sarah Martik

SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

SWEHP Presenting in Buffalo Township (Photo Credit: Sarah Martik)

Living near a shale gas extraction site, compression station, or pipeline comes with some expected and some potentially unexpected effects of which all residents in the area should be aware.  The release of chemicals and particulate matter into the atmosphere is expected; however, an event like a well fire or pipe leak is not something you can predict.  The most important thing for residents to do is to be proactive:  document your health on a registry, and be prepared to respond in case of an acute disaster.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (EHP) has an online registry where residents can document their health symptoms by filling out a questionnaire. The benefit of regularly updating your information on the registry is that researchers can use this data to find correlations between shale gas activity and health issues.  Knowing your symptoms and what causes them can help you add the right air filtration systems to your home and know what you should tell your doctor should you ever need treatment.  This information can also then be used when talking to legislators about why we need strong regulations on this industry.

In addition to being vigilant about your health, you should also make sure that you are prepared to respond in case of a disaster.  The EHP recommends that you contact your local volunteer emergency coordinator to get his or her recommendations for how to prepare an emergency kit.  Bottled water is important for any emergency situation; pliers are useful for turning off your gas valve to stop gas from flowing into your house; a whistle can be used to help first responders know where you are in the event that you are trapped.  Some disasters may require that you evacuate your home, and knowing your evacuation route can help all residents of your community get to safety quickly.

Thinking about these issues is not pleasant for anyone – when I listened to this presentation, I started to panic a bit myself – but being aware and prepared is the reality of being a resident of the shale fields, and it will help you if you ever find yourself in a dangerous situation.  


  • Sarah Martik

    Sarah joined the CCJ team as a Community Organizer in 2017 after previous work in performing arts and foreign language education, and became our Executive Director in 2023. A resident of Coal Center, PA, she is excited to work on issues related to legacy coal mining and the connection between the Appalachian petrochemical buildout and increases in fracking in southwestern PA communities like hers. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy but often says that her undergraduate degree in Theatre from the California University of Pennsylvania has been more useful in her work than anything else (ask her why sometimes!). When she is not working, Sarah loves spending time with her fiancé, niece, and nephews, and going on walks with her "fur kid" Lucy. Contact Sarah at smartik@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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