To determine the possible impact of Marcellus shale gas drilling on air quality and people's health, an online survey is being conducted by a local health department.
The Natural Gas Health Effects Survey - which can be found at www.ohiocountyhealth.com - was developed by the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.
"We don't have a specific time frame for how long the survey tool will be available, but we do plan to have it up and collect the data for the next year or two. The tool also has the ability to be moved to another county health department, so if that county wanted to collect data for their population we can work with them to set the tool up in that county," said Howard Gamble, health department administrator.
The survey is part of the health department's ongoing research related to the gas drilling industry. To determine if gas drilling is impacting the air quality, the health department has been working with the Michael McCawley, chairman of the Department of Occupational & Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health at West Virginia University, on a monitoring project. Results from that research are not expected to be released for years. But the online survey results are expected to be released on a monthly basis.
"On the survey, at the top, there is an area to view the survey results. This is where we will post the data - numbers only, no identifiable information - along with other information (like) results of the air monitoring studies," Gamble said.
The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete and participants' information will be kept confidential. A financial donation from the Elysian Fields Farm and Penny Miller of Wheeling assisted in the funding of the online survey tool developed locally by Beyond Marketing of Wheeling.
Gamble said the health department hopes the results will help form public health policies later.
"The survey tool also allows us to modify the survey, so if we are beginning to see a different health trend either as a result of the survey data or from other health care information we can change the questions and focus the survey to address other issues," Gamble said.
For more information about the survey, call the health department at 304-234-3682.