Researchers from West Virginia University are working with the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department to monitor air quality around gas drilling sites within the county, hoping to find out if Marcellus Shale drilling is affecting the air quality in the region.
Friday, they began setting up air quality monitors, and unveiled the equipment they will be using to 7News. Dr. Michael McCawley of the School of Public Health, Department of Occupational & Environmental Health at West Virginia University, will be working locally with Dr. Somu Chattejee, Regional Epidemiologist from the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department and Ohio County Health Officer Dr. William Mercer.
According to McCawley, four monitors will be set up and then moved around to different area's throughout the area over the next six months.
McCawley said volunteers who live near well pads have offered to place monitors on their property. Researchers will then look to see if anyone near these sites have been exposed.
"Are they more likely to be sick, are they more likely to show up at a hospital," McCawley asks."If they are more likely, we'll say there is a potential health effect there."
Researchers will need the participation of local hospitals. Chatterjee told 7News they will be approaching hospitals throughout the Northern Panhandle in the near future.
Undergraduate Students at Wheeling Jesuit University will be helping to monitor the equipment.
McCawley says they've seen a great deal of participation from the drilling industry. "They think they're doing a good job," he said. "This is one way, in fact, that they can show everybody."
This pilot study will take six months to complete, after that, researchers hope to apply for major funding from the government and continue the study. McCawley said it the entire study would take four to five years to complete.