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Environment & Energy

New Map Shows Environmental Risks Near Area Schools

More than 230 air emission sources and 350 natural gas drilling sites are located within one mile of a school in southwestern Pennsylvania, according to Women for a Healthy Environment.

Healthy Schools Pennsylvania, a program started by the East Liberty-based advocacy group, released an interactive map this week showing the environmental threats close to schools in the region.

“We want this to be a planning tool for any new proposed industrial or manufacturing activity in that particular school community,” Executive Director Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis said. “And we also want this tool to be used for proper siting of any new schools that would be considered.”

In addition to the drilling sites, the map includes possible pollution emitters such as factories and plants, coal mines and even rail lines.

“We know that these rail lines are carrying crude oil,” Naccarati-Chapkis said, “and we’ve seen what has happened with derailments and explosions and things that have happened in small communities.”

School districts are advised to take environmental precautions including inspecting air filtration systems and having a plan in place in case of emergencies, she said.

“We wanted to enhance our interaction with schools beyond the classroom to start working more with parents in the school community as well as teachers, administrators, faculty, anyone who may be engaged,” she said.

She said the threat of air pollution varied from school to school, but one school district in particular is closest to the most pollution-causing facilities.

“Certainly the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and we’ve had communication to inform the Pittsburgh Public School folks about this,” Naccarati-Chapkis said. “It’s generally because of the location of those particular school buildings throughout the city where there are several different pollutant sources.”