By Steve Mocarsky
July 8, 2010
Two health and environmental organizations have teamed up to host a new website with a web-based tool for tracking and visualizing data related to gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale region.
FracTracker.org, hosted by the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds and managed by the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, or CHEC, of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, officially launched on June 29.
The site is a one-stop shop for uploading and downloading data about practically anything related to Marcellus Shale development, from well site locations to well blow-outs, and well drilling permit locations to well wastewater spills.
“It’s useful to researchers in that they can upload data to a common place to share. People can log on to see if there’s drilling near their home or school. And you can visualize the data – think Google Maps for Marcellus Shale,” said Samantha Malone, a communications specialist for CHEC.
Malone said anyone who registers for the website can upload data that can be overlaid on pre-existing maps.
AN INVALUABLE RESOURCE!
“One of the problems we find between academia and the public is that data doesn’t get translated in a way that is meaningful and understandable to the public. Here, you can literally see where gas well blowouts and drilling are occurring. And you can save those visualizations and share them,” Malone said.
Health data, such as incidences of cancer, can also be uploaded and overlaid on maps, Malone said.
Serious economic, environmental and public health concerns surround the natural gas extraction process, including road degradation, explosions and blowouts, agricultural, hunting and fishing impacts, water contamination and human exposure to volatile organic compounds, according to a press release from Pittsburgh-based Rhiza Labs, the software company that designed the website tools.
“For the first time ever, people across many disciplines will be able to collaborate directly with communities and citizens in the collection and analysis of data that track these impacts across the Marcellus Shale play,” the release states.
The website also hosts a blog on which to provide a forum for various groups to discuss drilling issues and “use data as a basis to collaborate and advocate for the health of communities in the Marcellus Shale region,” said John Dawes, executive director of the watersheds foundation.
Four meetings/training seminars are scheduled throughout the region during the next two months to acquaint researchers with using the website and assist in forming a data-sharing network. They are scheduled for Pittsburgh on July 22, Danville on July 29, Ithaca, N.Y., on Aug. 10 and Charleston, W. Va., on Aug. 13.
Space will be limited, but anyone interested in attending can make a request for an invitation by calling Malone at 412-624-9379 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.