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Anti-Fracking Groups Seek Input From Those Who Say DOH Ignored Their Calls

A coalition of anti-fracking groups are hoping to ferret out stories of Pennsylvanians who feel they were ignored by the Department of Health when they called to complain about health problems that could be linked to Marcellus Shale gas activities. 

A web-based survey has been created to collect the stories and those who choose to not use the web can call (717) 467-3641 to share their experiences.

“After collecting 11 such stories in just a few weeks I think we can definitively say that there’re stories out there that were neglected,” said Food and Water Watch Organizer Sam Bernhardt, whose group is helping to collect the stories  “We think that this is really just the tip of the iceberg.”

Many of the 11 stories filed as of Tuesday afternoon have come from individuals known to be active in the anti-fracking community.

The effort comes in the aftermath of reporting by StateImpact Pennsylvania that a list of “buzzwords” associated with Marcellus Shale was created by the state Department of Health and that employees were told to sidetrack complaints from callers using those words.  The department says the list was not meant to stifle the agency’s roughly 1,400 employees, but to ensure “that we are speaking with one voice.”

The list included words and phrases such as "hair falling out" and "skin rash."

The groups have asked the Pennsylvania Attorney General to investigate the use of the list.

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” said anti-fracking activist Randy Moyer in quoting Aldous Huxley. 

“We have facts here,” continued Moyer, who said his on-going health issues are related to working on fracking sites. “These are people calling in from all walks of life, all political spectrums, all age groups, calling with problems. That can’t be ignored. If you ignore that you are asking for what I call generational suicide or disaster.”

Karen Feridun said the Attorney General’s office has asked for more information about those who have filed stories. The A.G.’s office says it will not comment on the issue.

“This is about politics and it should not be,” charged Craig Stevens, who said his drinking water was poisoning him after being negatively impacted by fracking. “This is like calling 911. When you call 911 every call is logged and there is a response … at the least we should know how many people called.”

Activists say without any long-range public health data on those living near wells and pipelines the state will never fully understand the impact of shale gas exploration. Without that understanding the groups organizing the effort say they should be a moratorium on fracking new wells in the state.