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Health, Science & Tech

Long-term Marcellus Shale Study Underway

Ari Moore

Geisinger Health System is using a $1 million grant to study the impact Marcellus Shale drilling has on people's health.

The grant from the Degenstein Foundation will go towards building a data warehouse that will be home to healthcare, drilling, and environmental data needed for the project.

Stephen Sellers, Administrative Director of the initiative, said the project will take 20 to 30 years. He said they’re divided into 5-year phases and the grant will go towards the first.

Sellers said the first five years will be devoted to setting up the warehouse and releasing some pilot programs to make sure everything is functioning.

He said the idea for the project came from Geisinger’s CEO, Dr. Glenn Steele.

“He felt it was very important that Geisinger could leverage its electronic health records to look at the health effects of this drilling activity on the population as a whole.”

Sellers said Geisinger will collaborate with Guthrie Health System and Susquehanna Health System.

He said they’re hoping to give the public real information on the effects of drilling.

“There’s all sorts of opinion, both pro and con. Everybody seems to have an opinion,” said Sellers. “But it seems to be based on very little hard scientific data.”

Sellers said the study will look at the health histories of thousands of PA residents living near wells and other natural gas facilities.

He said researchers have many questions on the safety of drilling, and they’re creating a mechanism that can address some of those concerns but it could take 20 years or longer to answer those questions.