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Parent group makes gas well requests

ADAMS TWP — The parents group that opposes the Geyer gas wells that are being developed within a mile of Mars School District’s five schools made specific requests of the school board on Tuesday night.

Before making the requests, the board heard a presentation by Marsha Haley, M.D., a radiation oncologist and a member of the group, and Patrice Tomcik, a cytogenic technologist and a member of the group.

The presentation detailed eight months of research by the parents that listed potential health effects on students from air pollution that comes from shale gas drilling.

Haley said it is not known what long-term effects unconventional gas drilling have on children. She said children cannot detoxify as well as adults, because they have narrower airways, and breathe more toxins than adults because they are more active and naturally take more breaths.

“If you think of it like asbestos or tobacco, we didn’t know the long-term effects until 20 years later,” Haley said.

Haley and Tomcik also discussed the limitations of air quality monitoring by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Tomcik said air pollution spikes common in shale gas drilling end up being figured into a daily or weekly reading by the DEP.

“If there is a spike of pollution, it will be averaged out over a period of time so it looks like it’s within DEP guidelines,” Tomcik said.

The pair made the following requests of Rex and/or the district:

* Do real-time, 24/7 air monitoring of all district playgrounds, athletic fields and buildings

* Share those results look for invisible vapors in the air around the well pad.

* Retrofit diesel trucks accessing the wells with special filters

* Have the school district divulge the evacuation plan in the event of a well-based emergency

* Establish a reverse 911 system to contact parents in an emergency

* Allow parents to attend the meetings between Rex and the district.

About 30 parents attended the meeting, and some spoke in support of the group’s requests.

Amy Doz chastised the board for allowing Rex to advertise at the football field and for having Planets sweatshirts sold with the Rex logo when this issue has “divided the community.”

“It’s no more than self promotion and it’s offensive to parents,” Doz said. “No thanks, I don’t want a sweatshirt.”

She said Rex should instead put its funding in the school district to the air monitoring technologies requested by the parents group.

Superintendent Jim Budzilek stressed that the booster and other organizations using the district’s name may have accepted donations from Rex Energy, but the district has not.

Two district residents, John Watson and Virgil Knox, spoke in support of the Geyer wells. The men said the Geyer wells meet all DEP regulations.

Rex plans to build five Marcellus Shale gas wells on the Bob and Kim Geyer farm which is off Route 228 in Middlesex Township.

Board President Dayle Ferguson said the board and administrators have been working continuously with Rex to ensure the safety of the students and staff.

“Rex has been forthright and willing to adjust their operation to accommodate ours,” Ferguson said. “Overall, we’ve been very pleased with their level of communication and cooperation.”

Budzilek said he has had a conversation with Rex regarding air monitoring equipment and infrared cameras. He said no decision has been made regarding those technologies.

Regarding divulging the district’s emergency evacuation plan to the public, Budzilek said he discussed the issue with police.

“If we put (evacuation) plans out there, what if they fall into the wrong hands?” Budzilek said.

He said he is meeting with Rex again in the next few weeks, and will discuss the presentation’s points.

Regarding the parents attending meetings between district officials and Rex, district solicitor Tom Breth said they could attend if the meetings are public.

Breth said a meeting between Budzilek and Rex officials would not constitute a public meeting. He added that the parents could not attend an executive session, when boards are permitted to meet privately for legal, real estate or personnel matters.

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