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Colcom Foundation’s Conservation Mission Fuels Support for Protect PT’s Fracking Monitoring

Protect PT (PPT) is an environmental organization supported by Colcom Foundation, which is dedicated to monitoring and addressing the impacts of fracking and other industrial activities on the air quality and quality of life in Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties in southwest Pennsylvania. 

Protect PT has made significant strides in environmental monitoring, specifically regarding air quality impacts near new and ongoing fracking operations. The organization combines data from its eight Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) monitors, Purple Air Monitors, and regional EPA air quality sensors to track and assess the air quality in communities situated in close proximity to fracking sites. By analyzing this data, PPT can provide residents with a comprehensive understanding of the potential environmental risks associated with fracking activities. This information serves as a foundation for advocacy and decision-making processes, ensuring the community’s safety and well-being.

Since 2020, Colcom Foundation has provided around $250,000 in support of PPT’s environmental monitoring programs.

One of the key programs supported by Colcom Foundation’s funding is Citizen Environmental Watchdogging. The program addresses the lack of data on air emissions and the impacts of fracking on the quality of life in the region.

In 2022, PPT made significant strides in this area through its multifaceted approach to addressing environmental concerns related to fracking and industrial activities. 

Their accomplishments include:

Educational Programs

In 2022, PPT organized 41 educational programs that reached 400 participants. These programs focused on raising awareness about the environmental impacts associated with fracking and other industrial practices, encouraging participants to become informed advocates for their communities.

Air Quality Monitoring Studies

PPT carried out twelve meticulous air quality monitoring studies in six different communities near the Sedat 3A Injection Well and the Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill. The data gathered from these studies played a pivotal role in securing the EPA Air Monitoring Grant for the organization, validating the significance of their monitoring efforts and providing additional resources for their work.

Radon Monitoring Studies 

Data studied from 32 households across Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties uncovered that 75% of the homes monitored had unsafe radon levels, shedding light on potential health risks for residents. Residents will receive comprehensive reports from PPT detailing the findings of the monitoring studies, including specific information about radon levels in their homes. These reports will serve as crucial resources for residents, providing them with a clear understanding of the radon exposure risks they face.

Noise Studies and Advocacy

The organization conducted noise studies in five homes near fossil fuel sites, quantifying and documenting the noise impacts. They actively participated in 14 conditional use and special exception hearings, providing valuable testimony and data on the adverse effects of industrial noise. These efforts raised awareness about the impact of noise pollution and contributed to advocacy for stricter regulations and safeguards to protect communities.

Permit Denials

PPT’s testimony, data, and grassroots organizing efforts directly influenced the denial of permits for two Olympus Energy oil well pads. The organization successfully influenced decision-making processes by presenting compelling evidence and mobilizing community support, advocating for responsible and sustainable practices within the industry.

Expansion of Monitoring

PPT expanded its monitoring capabilities by adding four long-term monitors to its network. This expansion allowed them to enhance data collection efforts and provide more comprehensive insights into the environmental impacts of industrial activities. Additionally, PPT monitored radon levels in 19 homes, further deepening its understanding of radon exposure risks in the region.

Presentation to Planning Commissions

PPT presented noise studies to the Murrysville and West Deer Planning Commissions, emphasizing the specific impacts of fracking within their respective municipalities. By sharing their findings and raising awareness among local authorities, the organization aims to influence future decision-making processes, advocating for the implementation of more stringent regulations to protect communities from the adverse effects of industrial activities.

In 2023, the organization outlined its plans for environmental monitoring and advocacy to address ongoing concerns related to fracking and industrial activities. These plans include:

Air Quality Monitoring

 PPT will combine data from its eight Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) monitors with data from Purple Air Monitors and regional EPA air quality sensors. This integrated approach will allow them to track air quality impacts at homes near both new and ongoing fracking sites.

Radon Monitoring Expansion

Recognizing the demand for radon monitoring in the region, PPT plans to expand its program by purchasing ten additional radon monitors in addition to the eleven it already has. PPT will also partner with Citizens for Radioactive Radon Reduction and educate residents about the monitoring process, providing reports detailing the findings and guidance on addressing high radon levels.

Outdoor Air Monitoring Stations

The organization will establish outdoor air monitoring stations equipped with VOC monitors, Purple Air Monitors, or both. These stations will be strategically placed to gather data on air quality. PPT’s environmental scientists will educate residents on how the monitoring works and how they can report any issues or violations through the organization’s Mobile App. Noise monitoring will be conducted alongside air studies in most locations to optimize resources. Participants will receive individualized reports on their air quality.

Focus on Impacted Communities

PPT will continue its work in the Rostraver, Belle Vernon, and Monessen communities, which have been affected by the Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill and the newly reopened Monessen Coke Works. These facilities have accepted fracking waste for over a decade, raising concerns among community members. The organization will continue monitoring the situation and advocating for the protection of community members, actively engaging with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to address concerns and push for necessary measures to safeguard the health and well-being of the communities.

Colcom Foundation, a prominent philanthropic organization dedicated to the protection of ecosystem health, has supported PPT’s efforts to monitor and address the impacts of fracking since 2020. 

Colcom Foundation recognizes the potentially devastating effects of fracking on communities, particularly in rural areas where fracking operations can often occur in close proximity to residential areas, posing a direct threat to the health and well-being of community members. 

PPT’s efforts align with  Colcom Foundation’s commitment to environmental conservation, community empowerment, and sustainability. Through its continuing financial support, Colcom Foundation enables PPT to conduct comprehensive monitoring studies, educational programs, and advocacy initiatives that raise awareness about the environmental impacts of fracking and empower communities to protect their rights and interests.

By facilitating the collection of valuable data on air quality, radon exposure, and noise pollution associated with fracking and holding governmental and corporate entities accountable for their detrimental actions on the environment, Colcom Foundation is furthering its mission to ensure the well-being of rural communities in Southwest Pennsylvania and the protection of ecosystems for present and future generations.

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